Opinion

Don’t expect anything to change after Las Vegas shooting

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You’ll have to forgive me, because I’m as tired of writing this column as you likely are of reading it. Yet, with a sickening frequency, I inevitably have to write some kind of reaction to an act of mass murder, and try to bring some rational thought to the most emotional of issues.

Something bad keeps happening, we feel the need and desire to “do something” about it, and nothing happens. I think this is something that grips all of us, no matter what side of the political aisle or the gun debate that we are on.

Monday, we all reacted the same way. A sick, twisted man who was incredibly well armed with a variety of weapons, including fully automatic weapons, murdered nearly 60 individuals, and injured more than 500 by firing out a hotel window into a crowd of concertgoers.

This brutal attack is something we can all agree we don’t want to see and we would all like to make certain that it doesn’t.

Why, then, can we not agree on a path forward to “do something” about this? Well, I hate to put too fine a point on it, but the answer is pretty simple. Politics.

Once again, the initial reaction after an act of mass killing came from the American left, and immediately those reactions were — as they always are — obsessed with things that would not have done anything to stop the incident that just happened.

“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” began Hillary Clinton on Twitter. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”

Clinton obviously understands nothing about guns. A suppressor in the movies and in real life are two very different things. Had the shooter in Las Vegas had a suppressor on his weapons, there is absolutely no doubt the sound of his shooting would have been just as audible to the crowd as it was without it.

Besides, if you watch the video of the attack, you see very clearly that as the initial shots rained down on the crowd, barely anyone moved. Most people thought it was someone setting off firecrackers, and it wasn’t until much later that people started to run and scream.

Beyond this, of course, we have the typical calls for increased background checks, restrictions on magazine size and all the other litany of solutions proposed in times like this.

Yet a restriction on magazine size clearly wouldn’t have mattered at all in this case. The killer in this case had 47 guns with him and at his homes, and plenty of ammunition. Instead of one magazine with a large number of rounds, any person wanting to do this much damage can simply bring more guns and more magazines.

And background checks? They need to be expanded, say gun control advocates. Yet as I noted last year, the Orlando shooter passed multiple background checks, had a Florida license to carry and survived two FBI terrorism investigations.

In this latest incident, fully automatic weapons were found. Yet, the sale of new fully automatic firearms was banned in 1986. Fully automatic firearms that were registered under the National Firearms Act before 1986 were, however, grandfathered in.

If you want one of these weapons, though, you need to pay a $200 fee and submit yourself to the ATF for an extensive federal background check, as well as fingerprinting. This can take up to a full year. On top of that, even purchasing one of these weapons can set you back $20,000 or $30,000.

If the Las Vegas shooter obtained an automatic weapon legally, there is no background check on earth that is more stringent and comprehensive, and he still passed it. If he obtained the weapon illegally, then clearly no new laws or regulations would have mattered here anyway.
And most concerning of all is the fact that this man showed absolutely no warning signs. No immediate signs of mental illness. No criminal history. Nothing that would raise a red flag with anyone along the way.

So more background checks wouldn’t have helped. Restrictions on the weapons he had didn’t do anything. Mental health evaluations likely wouldn’t have made any difference. Changes to things like magazine size wouldn’t have altered anything.

Thus we are left with one conclusion. If someone like this truly wants to engage in an act of mass killing, there is very little, if anything, we can really do to stop it.

And it is that which is truly what is leaving us frustrated and angry.

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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