Hours after a lone gunman killed at least 58 people and injured 527 others in Las Vegas Sunday night, President Donald Trump called the attack “an act of pure evil,” adding that in moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one.
He expressed grief and shock over the deadliest mass shooting in US history, praised the law enforcers and first responders, and grieved with the families of the victims, but never in his relatively lengthy speech did he mention anything about what the government must do to prevent another carnage, nor show concern about the increasingly rampant gun violence.
We were, of course, not surprised that he ignored the fact that it came just 20 months after the previously deadliest mass shooting in the US – the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida that left 49 people dead – and just a few months after a 26-year-old gunman shot to death nine students and teachers and wounded 20 others at a community college in Rosburg, Oregon, and after 14 people were killed and 20 injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
After all, as a candidate, Trump received $30 million in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and repeatedly vowed during the campaign to prevent any restrictions on the Second Amendment. Three months after taking his oath of office, Trump told NRA members in a forum: “You have a true friend and champion in the White House. You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”
There. Now we know that there will be no attempt on the part of the White House to at least put some sense of control on the acquisition of powerful assault weapons.
In contrast, former President Barack Obama, in the 15 times that he spoke after a mass shooting during his presidency, called on Congress to enact laws to prevent these senseless killings from ever happening again. Lamenting that “we have become numb to this,” referring to the Oregon shooting, Obama said: “Each time this happens, I am going to say we are going to have to do something about it. And we are going to have to change our laws.”
But each time, his efforts were stymied by Congress that’s dominated by Republicans, many of whom are beneficiaries of NRA campaign support, just like Trump.
“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) on Monday after the Las Vegas shooting. “There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its a– and do something.”
Murphy represents Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire at an elementary school there in 2012, killing 27 people, including 20 schoolchildren.
A day after James Holmes used an assault rifle to kill 12 people and injure 58 others inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, Sen. Diane Feinstein, an avid gun control advocate, said: “Weapons of war don’t belong on the streets,” adding that the country needs to have a “sane” debate about banning military-style assault weapons.
In 2012, there were 488,065 privately owned fully automatic machine guns in the US, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. These assault weapons can fire anywhere from 300 to 1,800 rounds per minute with one squeeze of the trigger.
The Las Vegas shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, had 10 of them in his 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel, which he used to shoot at more than 22,000 people who were watching a country music concert across the street. A search at his home in nearby Mesquite, Nevada yielded 18 more powerful weapons.
The Las Vegas shooting, just like all other high-profile killings, is expected to reignite the national debate over gun control, but with the Republican-controlled Congress and the White House obviously on the side of gun advocates, efforts to pass gun control measures will again be massacred by the powerful lobby of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Because the NRA and its supporters in Congress wouldn’t allow any kind of control on gun ownership, Paddock, just like the other mass murderers before him – Vester Lee Flannagan, James Holmes, Mohammod Yassouf Abdulazeez, John Russel Houser, Dylan Roof and many more – were able to gain access to guns legally because such powerful weapons were available to almost anybody who has the money to buy them – assault weapons, shotguns, and ammunition.
Guns are the hands of evil. Their only purpose is to maim and kill. They were invented to kill people and animals alike; to kill people and take advantage of the victims’ material possessions and the victims’ surviving family, friends, or countrymen; to kill animals for pleasure and for food.
President Trump was right. The Las Vegas attack, just like the other previous mass shootings, was an act of pure evil. But grief alone won’t stop the hands of evil. Only concrete action will.