Americans Against Gun Violence extends heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all the people killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1. We also extend our deepest sympathy to all the surviving victims along with sincere wishes for a prompt and complete recovery.
At the same time, however, we agree with the statement made by the late Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut in 1968, following the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy:
Pious condolences will no longer suffice….Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice….The time has now come that we must adopt stringent gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country of the world.
The massacre in Las Vegas, in which at least 58 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded, is the deadliest mass shooting to date in U.S. history, eclipsing the number of casualties in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, in which 49 people were killed and 58 injured. Unless definitve gun control laws are adopted, however, the Las Vegas massacre will not be the last mass shooting in U.S. history, nor will it continue to stand as the worst.
The regular occurrence of mass shootings is preventable. Mass shootings occur rarely, if at all, in other high income democratic countries of the world, all of which have far more stringent gun control regulations than the United States.
Preliminary reports indicate that the perpetrator of the Las Vegas massacre, Stephen Paddock, obtained all of the semi-automatic rifles that he used in the shooting legally under the lax U.S. gun laws, along with the “bump stocks” that allowed the rifles to function similar to fully automatic machine guns. Paddock used these weapons for the purpose for which they were designed – to kill and maim large numbers of people in a short period of time. Americans Against Gun Violence believes that there is no legitimate civilian use for such weapons. Civilian ownership of such semi-automatic rifles is either strictly regulated or completely banned in all other high income democratic countries.
The legislation that has been introduced in Congress following the Las Vegas massacre to ban “bump stocks” does not qualify as even a “quarter measure” in the terminology used by the late Senator Thomas Dodd. It’s likely that Stephen Paddock would have been able to kill and maim very nearly as many people using semi-automatic rifles without “bump stocks.”
Following a mass shooting in 1996 in the resort town of Port Arthur, Australia, in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded by a single gunman using semi-automatic rifles, it took the Australian government just 13 days to ban all semi-automatic rifles. The Australian government subsequently bought back approximately 1 million semi-automatic rifles and melted them down. There have been no more mass shootings in Australia since the ban went into effect, and overall rates of firearm related deaths and injuries, which were already much lower than in the United States, have continued to fall.
The U.S. Congress should follow the example of Australia and pass veto proof legislation to ban all semi-automatic rifles. Until such a ban is adopted, we should not be surprised when the next horrific mass shooting occurs. Rather, we should ask ourselves why as a nation we lack the political will to prevent such massacres.