I can’t imagine the emotions that the people at a country and western festival must have felt in a completely open venue with no real cover in sight while someone poured automatic rifle fire on them from above time and time again. The feelings of fear and helplessness must have been overwhelming. For those who were hit, but survived and those who were not but saw people around them slaughtered, it is something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. I wish them peace and fervently hope they will eventually find a way to come to grips with the tragedy and even find ways to deal with it in a positive manner.
Now in the aftermath each of us of good character will eventually examine our own feelings about this tragedy. For me, after sorting though the sorrow for the people involved and the anger that we as a people have allowed this to happen once again, one concern stands above the rest. The shooter for all outward appearances was a normal guy.
He wasn’t a terrorist. He had no criminal record and no apparent mental illness. He had no known religious or political affiliations. He wasn’t even a hunter; there is no evidence, at least not yet, that he sought to sharpen his shooting skills at a gun range. His own brother didn’t even know he had interest in guns, and certainly wasn’t aware that he was the kind of guy who would seek to modify is many assault rifles into fully automatic fire killing machines.
Sooner or later after a through investigation we will learn what drove this man to take his own life and take as many people as possible with him, that he wasn’t at normal after all. But here the thing – apparently there was no way anyone could have predicted in advance that he would be capable of performing this horrendous act. Selling him the weapons he used in that in that hotel room was perfectly legal. Under our present system of firearm laws he would have been able to pass any background check currently in use. Some will be quick to point out that it is illegal to modify the weapons he used to restore the automatic fire capabilities they were originally designed to deliver, but that is a relatively simple operation. A quick search of the web will also turn up perfectly legal accessories for those weapons which will essentially serve the same purpose. For example the makers of a modified stock for the AR-15 advertises that it will allow a shooter of that commonly used assault rifle to fire up to 900 rounds a minute with full accuracy.
What we are left with is the realization that we have no real way of determining in advance which of the many millions of perfectly legal gun owners in this country will snap tomorrow and bring this kind of carnage to bear. This tragedy points to the fact that it not enough to keep some guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The only thing that we can reasonably do is limit the damage to human lives that one person can inflict. A guy with a knife can only do so much harm when trying to kill as many people a possible. A car can only be used to mow down a limited number of people. Even a person with a pistol, or even multiple pistols, can only fire so many shots, one at a time, before becoming vulnerable while stopping to reload and his range is limited. Hunting rifles, if used in Las Vegas, would have been deadly, but much less so than the automatic assault rifles which were actually used. Yes, the carnage in each case would be totally unacceptable, but at least it would be somewhat limited.
Assault rifles, which have been used in almost every shooting incident where there has been a large loss of life, were designed to be used by the military to kill as many enemy combatants as possible, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. While they can be adapted for less horrific uses, they are far much too easy to use for their original purpose. There is no legal use for these weapons of war which cannot be provided by other less lethal pistols and rifles. For gun owners they are in the “nice to have” category in much the same manner that some would prefer to have very expensive sports cars capable of reaching 150 miles an hour rather than a family sedan. However, let’s keep in mind that sports car aren’t built to kill almost six hundred people.
The second amendment is not without limits. The Supreme Court has approved our present laws which keep other weapons of war out of the hands of ordinary citizens where their use might be abused. Assault rifles can and must be added to that category. The right of a gun owner to enjoy tearing up a target at a gun range with an AR-15 or an AK-47 cannot be allowed to take precedence over the rights of 15,000 people to enjoy a concert without being shoot at or the rights of the rest of us to be reasonably safe as we gather together in our daily lives.