Retired accountant Stephen Paddock methodically assembled an arsenal fit for a small army.
Police found 23 firearms, including assault weapons, during a search of his suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. They also found high-capacity magazines and an add-on device capable of rendering a weapon virtually fully automatic. An additional 19 guns were located in Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nev., and seven in a home in Reno.
All of this was legally available and easy to obtain in the United States.
For reasons that might well follow him to the grave, the frequent gambler used his arsenal with ruthless efficiency to kill at least 59 people and injure 527 Sunday night in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Death by gunfire is a tragically American hallmark. U.S. citizens are 21 times more likely to be killed with a firearm than Australians, 16 times more likely than Germans, and six times more likely than Canadians.
And Americans are far more prone to being gunned down in groups. This year, through the end of August, there was more than one mass shooting (defined as an incident where at least four people are killed or wounded) per day in the USA.
Without trampling on the Second Amendment, what commonsense steps can be taken to reduce this horrific toll? Here are four:
Ban devices known as bump stocks and trigger cranks that can be used to modify rifles to fire more like machine guns. Federal law already severely restricts ownership of fully automatic machine guns. Why allow the manufacture and sale of these workarounds?
Reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, manifestly designed for killing human beings. They were also the weapon of choice in the Pulse nightclub killing of 49 last year and the Sandy Hook slaying of children in 2012. When assault weapons were banned from 1994 to 2004, studies showed a marked decrease in their use. More than three-fifths of Americans favor a new ban.
Reinstate a ban on large-capacity magazines, typically defined as holding more than 10 rounds. From the sound of automated fire recorded during the Las Vegas shooting, Paddock clearly loaded his rifles with these large magazines. That allowed him to discharge dozens of bullets before reloading. The 1994 federal law also banned these magazines and reduced their use before Congress allowed the law to lapse.
Limit gun purchases. Between homes and hotel room, Paddock assembled a cache of 49 firearms. During his killing spree, this would have allowed him to move from one rifle to another if a weapon jammed from overheating, a circumstance common when guns are fired continuously at a high rate. Some states limit gun purchases to one per month, a restriction that might have at least slowed Paddock’s arming up.
Gun-rights activists like to argue that the aftermath of these massacres is a time for mourning, not for debating gun restrictions. “We’ll talk about that later,” President Trump said Tuesday. You can bet if we knew for sure Paddock had been Muslim, the president would have wasted no time demanding some kind of action be taken.
The activists also like to contend that people intent on killing cannot be dissuaded by changes in the law. That’s undoubtedly true in many cases. But it doesn’t mean society has to make the slaughter so absurdly easy.
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