By Briana Scalia
On the night of Oct. 1, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert-goers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. According to the Los Angeles Times, the death toll reached 59, and the number of injured increased to 527. Before I explore the several reasons this tragedy was allowed to occur, I have to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of these victims, whose lives were all inconceivably altered over the course of minutes. However, I cannot allow myself to use these unnecessary deaths as an excuse to prolong my thoughts on gun control, and neither should our politicians. While many might argue that it is too soon to discuss our country’s Second Amendment, I would argue that, at least for these recent victims, it is far too late.
While critics of America’s lax gun control often target the country’s federal government at large, the subject actually starts on a much smaller scale; specifically, with individual states’ governments. State laws featuring gun control vary considerably and are independent of existing federal firearm laws. This feature of democracy could have worked in favor of those who prefer stricter gun control; states could elude the legislature of an overbearing central government to instead establish their own set of rules. Instead, a majority of states have used this freedom as a way to lessen gun control even further. Nevada has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country.
According to The Mercury News, “The state does not require firearms owners to have licenses or register their weapons and Nevada does not limit the number of firearms an individual can possess.” Another factor to consider is the ease with which one can procure a gun in several states, including Nevada. Stephen Paddock bought three of his guns–a handgun and two rifles–at a store in Mesquite, Nevada within the last year. The store’s name was “Guns & Guitars,” a shop appropriately named for its stock of the aforementioned guns and guitars. Not only were these purchases legal, but Paddock reportedly cleared all of the routine federal tests. State representatives cannot be excused for their lack of action regarding gun control; the power, as well as the blood, is on their hands.
Regardless of the country’s gun legislature, it cannot be argued that the Las Vegas police officers, both on and off the job, provided a huge service to American citizens by acting effectively and efficiently. After extensive searching, the FBI had determined within the day that Paddock had no connection to an international terrorist group. The announcement came after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, but without any evidence to prove so. The officers on the ground provided equally, if not more so, crucial work, tracking Paddock’s location a mere 12 minutes after the shooting commenced. After another hour, with the aid of a SWAT team, the police entered the rooms Paddock had chosen for his hub during the shooting. During the hour-long wait, local police went door to door in the hotel, making sure everyone evacuated the premises. However, while the police were doing everything in their power to relieve the chaos, certain citizens at the site of the shooting were concerned they would add to it.
Caleb Keeter, lead guitarist of the band performing when the shooting started, took to Twitter to explain how “[He had] been a proponent of the 2nd amendment [his] entire life. Until the events of last night.” While he goes on to explain his newfound respect for the balance of gun ownership and control, he also stated, “We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus,” but they “…couldn’t touch them for fear police might think we were part of the massacre and shoot us.” Keeter illustrates an important point in regards to certain gun owners’ arguments for more lenient gun control. In the past, certain proponents of the Second Amendment have insisted that gun laws would not stop those who would use guns for such terrible crimes as this, but would only prevent fans from appreciating the craft of gun making, shooting, etc. This is not a fallacious point; in fact, it would be naive to assume that stricter gun control would lead to the cessation of all gun violence. However, Keeter’s comments concerning the night of the shooting prove that the justification of impeding an armed, upstanding citizen is faulty to say the least. No “good guy with a gun” could have stopped Stephen Paddock from unleashing the violence he did on Oct. 1.
Regrettably, many feel that America has already reached its turning point when it comes to the discussion of gun control. Before this shooting, before the Orlando incident, before most of these displays of careless loss of life, there was Sandy Hook, where a crazed man with a gun slaughtered innocent children. If politicians could not acknowledge our country’s gun epidemic after the heartache that can only be associated with the death of a child, many fear we never will. Even I stated earlier in this article that it was too late for the victims of this latest shooting. But it is not too late for our country and its citizens. It is not too late for the future generations who will have their own tragedies if we do not take a stand in this moment. We cannot lose hold of this anger, this outrage towards this senseless loss of life. We must be productive during our moments of grief by tightening our gun laws. Even gun owners themselves are asked to lend their voice, their knowledge on weapons and their expertise to this fight. I implore the countless of those reading this who support the Second Amendment to differentiate yourself from those that would use guns to enact their own violent imaginations. The fight for gun control is not the fight against guns, but the fight for gun responsibility. We have to do more than pray. The world is watching us as a nation, and we owe it not only to them, but to our own people, to do better.
Briana Scalia, FCRH ’20, is a broadcast journalism major from Long Island, New York.