This time, what happened in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. It will reverberate throughout the world. The incomprehensible carnage inflicted by a 64-year-old retiree, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history and the worst terror incident since 9/11, must leave an indelible scar on the American psyche. Whether it will change anything in reality remains to be seen.
This would not be the case if the assailant had been a Muslim. If a Muslim had rained down bullets from the 32nd floor of a luxury hotel on a crowd of mostly white country music fans, hell would have broken loose. Donald Trump would have triumphed. He would encounter no more difficulties in issuing travel bans or in highlighting the dangers of radical Islam or Syrian refugees. The American Muslim community would be besieged.
But according to what we know now, Stephen Paddock was not a Muslim. He was a white American living in the Nevada township of Mesquite, about an hour's drive from Las Vegas. The focus will thus shift to the fact that Paddock was able to get his hands on numerous rapid-fire weapons and tons of ammunition. There will be calls, mainly from the liberal left, to finally tighten America’s crazily liberal gun laws. In all probability they will come to nothing, as they always do.
After all, nothing was done when America had a president like Barack Obama, who literally wept in front of the nation twice – once after the Newtown massacre and again in early 2016 – in an effort to persuade Congress to pass stricter gun control laws. He issued whatever executive orders he could in order to tighten supervision that had already been enacted but failed to overcome the powerful National Rifle Association or to get Congress to legislate substantial changes on America’s gun laws. On the contrary, in states with an entrenched Republican majority, there is an ongoing effort to loosen the few restrictions that still exist.
The world cannot comprehend how a supposedly enlightened nation such as the United States clings so resolutely to gun laws that seem more appropriate to the Wild West than to a modern 21st-century country. How it fails to see the clear link between the 100 or so Americans who are killed by bullets each and every day, and the guns that are so readily available to fire those bullets. How weapons of mass killing that in other countries are restricted to the battlefield and military personnel are sold over the counter to anyone with a driver’s license. Why repeated gun massacres and mass shooting fail to change anyone’s mind. And why an entire wing of American politics has embraced free gun ownership as its cherished ideal, its defining principle, its do-or-die ideal from which it will never retreat.
Judging by his past statements, Trump leaves only scant hope that things are going to change. He has opposed efforts to reinstate the ban on assault rifles. In his first month in office, he rolled back Obama’s regulations that aimed to make it difficult for people with mental health issues to purchase guns. I repeat: Obama wanted to make it harder for crazy people to buy guns with which they can murder scores of innocent people. Trump and Congress believe, apparently, that it’s the constitutional right of every American, sane or insane, to freely buy the weapons that would allow them to go to the 32nd floor of a fancy hotel, armed with no less than 10 rifles and ammunition fit for a platoon, in order to rain down death and bloodshed on innocent people below.
NRA supporters and many conservatives view free ownership of guns as a basic right of all Americans. They apparently think that men and women – mostly men – toting guns in public is a sign of freedom and strength. They think gun control laws are oppressive and weak. And they don’t know, or don’t care, that the rest of the world views America and its guns not only as pathetic but even insane.
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