President Trump has said he will be “talking gun laws” in the coming days amid cries from Democratic lawmakers to pass more stringent federal gun control laws. We’re getting bits and pieces of the story about how the Vegas shooter obtained his weapons, and more about how he may have altered some of them to allow roughly the equivalent of a fully automatic firing rifle. It should be noted that police have said he did not actually posses a fully automatic weapon, but may have used modifiers to make his semi-automatic rifle firing more quickly which allowed for more rounds per minute.
So, here we are in the days following a mass shooting. There will be discussion about gun laws, but what new laws could have actually prevented this shooting from happening? Let’s examine some of the proposals seriously, and with a purely objective eye. If legislation is going to be passed as a result of an event or occurrence, then it is important to ensure that such legislation would actually be successful in making a difference.
Assault Weapons Ban (AWB)
Democratic Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, has proposed bringing back the Assault Weapons ban originally enacted by President Clinton. The ban was left to sunset during the Bush administration.
According to the Washington Post, the Vegas shooter used a variety of guns which would be considered “assault weapons” based on the definition in the original AWB:
According to WTNH, several high capacity magazines were found in his Mandalay Bay hotel room:
According to Newsweek, the shooter purchased the firearms legally, and passed all the background checks with no red flags:
Australia has seen a great reduction in gun crimes, including murders and suicides. There is data to support the claim that fully implementing a gun confiscation program or forced buy-back would improve the gun violence situation. It would take time, probably many many years, but by eventually by pulling all weapons off the street and out of homes, the access to weapons would go down.
The biggest hurdle to such a move in the United States is currently the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which courts have upheld as guaranteeing an individual the right to own firearms. Yes, the Constitution can be changed, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, nor does it seem even many Democratic politicians wish to see a rollback of the Second Amendment to allow more stringent gun laws.
During a Gun Control Town Hall, back in January of 2016, President Obama was asked about confiscating the 65 million guns in circulation:
The President answers a little more than the video, and here’s the transcript:
OBAMA: Well, look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year. I don’t know — when — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?
I come from the state of Illinois, which we’ve been talking about Chicago, but downstate Illinois is closer to Kentucky than it is to Chicago. And everybody hunts down there. And a lot of folks own guns. And so this is not, like, alien territory to me. I’ve got a lot of friends, like Mark, who are hunters. I just came back from Alaska where I ate a moose that had just been shot, and it was pretty good.
So, yes, it is — it is a false notion that I believe is circulated for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming-together among people of goodwill to develop commonsense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment.
In other words, even President Obama, a staunch gun control proponent, concedes that gun confiscation in a country with 320 million people and 65 million guns is not practical, or achievable.
So, what works and what doesn’t? Some of these provisions could be enacted, but they may or may not have changed much in this nightmare scenario. We have to work with where we are today. And where we are is a country with millions of privately owned guns, a reasonable amount of gun control at the federal level, and states left to implement their own more stringent gun control level if needed. Furthermore, we have millions of citizens who will not simply hand over their guns peacefully under any circumstances or due to any law. Once again, we have the urban-rural-divide.
How do we actually stop the Stephen Paddock’s of the world with no prior criminal history, no mental health history, and no advance notice of any kind that he was about to launch mass murder on an unspeakable scale?