The morning of September 25th saw the world wake up to the frightening and terrifying news of a shooting which became America’s deadliest of all time. Between 22:00 and 22:15 on September 24th in Las Vegas, Nevada, 58 concert-goers were shot dead and more than 500 were injured after being shot by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock. The weapon used was a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle which was fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort. Unsurprisingly, the shooting produced strong claims that gun-laws in the U.S. should be tightened significantly.
The Las Vegas massacre was not the first mass shooting America has seen, and certainly won’t be the last. Had Sunday been a rare occurrence, the world would have paid their respects to the deceased, the injured and the families of the victims. The perpetrator would rightly be condemned, but speculation that mental health issues were to blame would be rife. The reality, unfortunately, paints a different picture: in the past 1,735 days, there have been 1,516 mass shootings in America alone. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident where four or more people are shot in one incident. To put Sunday into context: the Las Vegas shooting surpassed what was the most despicable terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 – the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. The numbers keep rising and rising: 20 at Sandy Hook, 49 in Orlando and now 59 in Las Vegas. The death toll will only keep climbing if there is no substantial recognition and action that stricter gun regulations need to top the agenda.
Something that has often been ignored and hidden by mainstream media is the fact that this shooting was an act of terrorism. It is extremely clear that Paddock was a terrorist, but for some strange reason, The White House and mainstream media are ignoring this fact. It is probably due to the misunderstanding that terrorism since 2001 has an affiliation to Islamic fundamentalism. Terrorism, however, does not discriminate; a terrorist does not have to be an Islamist. Nevada state law defines terrorism as: the use of violence, intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population. The rhetoric in the President’s response was extremely concerning. Donald Trump is particularly vocal when condemning Islamic terrorism, infamously describing the perpetrator of the Manchester attacks as a ‘loser’ and describing the London Bridge attack as an ‘evil slaughter’. Yet, due to his staunch support for the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) and close ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the President described the perpetrator as just ‘sick and demented’. Trump has referred to Islamist terrorism as a type of cancer that needed to be rooted out, so why doesn’t gun terror deserve the same abhorration? Surely skin colour and lobby-group affiliation do not decriminalise the extent of a crime?
The U.S. system of governance is different to that of the U.K. The U.S system is federal, meaning that there is the central government in Washington D.C. but there are smaller state governments with the ability to legislate. Signed under the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1994, a Federal Assault Weapons Ban banned the use of semi-automatic weapons, but the ten-year ban lapsed in 2004. Gun laws differ from state to state, for instance California and New York are very strict, but Nevada is a lot more permissive. This can be seen in the fact there is no requirement for a permit to buy a rifle, shotgun or handgun, owners do not need to be licensed and residents in Nevada can carry weapons openly and freely. Having such unrestricted laws is a recipe for disaster and the leniency almost makes gun-related incidents of this magnitude inevitable.
Ultimately, nothing will be done: this was evident in the President’s rhetoric following the attack. A president who clearly is largely unpopular will not accentuate his unpopularity by antagonising loyal supporters such as the NRA. More mass shootings will occur due to the lack of action and particular leniency regarding certain states’ approach to firearms. Gun crime is a necessary evil that the President should be rooting out and that only comes from a tougher approach; this is if he wants to abide by the Constitution he seems to cherish so much. He should be protecting his citizens from enemies – both foreign and domestic- and that starts with stricter gun control.