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What New Gun Law Would Have Prevented the Vegas Massacre?

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.

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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Democratic Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, has proposed bringing back the Assault Weapons ban originally enacted by President Clinton.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.

Conclusion

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?

Nate Ashworth :Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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  • Why not address the elephant in the room - ammunition. There are no limits nor restrictions on how bullets are sold. A gun without am munition is a good boat anchor.

    • Chris Rock used to say that you should be able to own all the guns you want--but bullets ought to be $500 apiece. That would cut down on "random' shooting.

    • Valid point. It wouldn't eliminate the availability entirely but would make it harder to stock up large amounts.

  • For gun ownership: background checks, training, registration of gun ownership and requirements regarding transfer of gun title and liability insurance. That, and removal of access to military grade weapons to general citizens. No automatic or semi automatic weaponry for personal ownership. And it has to be federal law applying identically in every state. That's the bare minimum requirements, if we hope to retain the privilege of gun ownership for citizenry.

    • Background checks already apply everywhere except between two private parties. All sales from a dealer (at a gun show or gun store) go through federal background check.

      Some states require training to get a concealed carry permit, but not to simply purchase a gun.

      Some states have registration, most don’t.

      Some states regulate transfer between private parties, most don’t.

      I don’t think anywhere requires liability insurance, but I think that could happen in some states.

      Automatic weapons have been banned since the 1930s.

      Semi-automatic includes almost every type of gun from handguns to shotguns to rifles. That would effectively be a ban on most everything.

        • Not true, the "gun show loophole" is a big myth perpetrated by people pushing for more background checks. It sounds scary, right? Like gun shows just hand out guns like tic tacs Every firearm I own was purchased at a gun show, from a dealer, with the required background check. Every licensed dealer by law has to perform a background check whether they sell a gun at a gun show or at a gun store. There is no difference. The "gun show" thing is a total myth. You cannot be a seller at a gun show without being a licensed dealer, etc...

          The same goes for internet sales. I have sold guns online. The buyer pays for the gun. I ship the gun to a gun store near the buyer. The gun store accepts the firearm and performs a background check on the buyer. Then once the background check is passed, the buyer gets their gun. There are already laws in most states which would prohibit anything other than that exact scenario since you can't buy a gun in any state without a background check already.

          Plus, there's every indication this guy bought guns through the normal process at gun stores and passed necessary checks, nothing out of the ordinary.

          • Easily surpassed at gun show and private sales. I have seen it occur. It is no myth. Which is why we require at LEAST the same level of control as we do with vehicles: insurance, training, registration and control over transference. And given that it is weaponry, then background checks are reasonable. Simple.

            And your previous comment was based on limited data and anecdotal. In Australia, they went from 13 mass shootings to zero. Sure, proving causal effect would take more time, but who cares? The result is the same, causal or no. And the facts bear this out in every country where reasonable measures have been taken to get guns out of civilian hands, especially those who should not have them.

            The reason why we have the highest gun violence and atrocity incident in the world is because of powerful lobbying by NRA and sheer wilful and ignorant refusal to do anything about it. And the longer we sit idly by, the worse it will become.

            I have suggested several measures that have been shown to work everywhere they have been effected. What do you suggest as alternatives, given your resistance to these changes?

          • The myth is that sales at a gun show means no background check required, as it is peddled by politicians. Private sales (which by law are not subject to federal background checks) can occur anywhere, it has nothing to do with gun shows. Every sale from a Federally License Firearm dealer requires a background check no matter where it occurs, which is the overwhelming vast majority of sales. The "gun show loophole" is nothing more than a statistical blip when it comes to crime stats, but it's treated like a serious problem. It's not, because it only exists in the minds of politicians.

            But that is immaterial, because this guy didn't buy guns from private parties, he went through background checks, so it's just noise clouding this discussion.

            With a psycho like this who clearly planned this out well in advance, and had explosive material in his vehicle and at his home, wasn't going to be deterred by anything. He was intent on killing a lot of people.

            Don't misconstrue my skepticism of your proposals as resistance to changes. I just don't think those things are going to be successful in fighting someone as determined as this Vegas shooter. If he wasn't shooting, he may have ended up bombing for all we know, since he had the materials in his car parked at the hotel.

            The "Assault Weapons Ban" from 1994 to 2004 proved negligible in reducing gun deaths or crimes, because most crimes aren't committed with rifles.

            http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-winkler-folly-of-assault-weapon-ban-20151211-story.html

            https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/sunday-review/the-assault-weapon-myth.html

            The term "assault weapon" is only used by people who know nothing about firearms, you never hear that term outside politics, because it's not a real classification of firearms, it's meant to scare.

            Most gun deaths result from handguns every year, not rifles, yet nobody focuses on that very important fact.

            Basically I don't believe that you can have much of an impact unless and until you confiscate every weapon, and then guarantee (which is impossible) that criminals can't get weapons either. That is an unlikely and unconstitutional scenario.

            So, we can do the things you mentioned. We can require registration, but that wouldn't have stopped this shooter. We can track the transfer of weapons, but that wouldn't have stopped this shooter. We can ban various guns, but he could've gotten them anyway or used other means (we don't know, and that's the point?).

            I'm not opposed to changes, I'm just opposed to changes that do nothing more than restrict the rights of citizens, but don't actually achieve the intended result.

            I heard late night host Jimmy Kimmel say that we can't do nothing, we must do "something." Ok, sure, but what is that "something," and is it going to be successful or just make some people feel good about "doing" something.

            As Goethe mentioned, the bump-stock thing is probably going to be banned, which seems like a reasonable step since it was used by this guy, and it sidesteps existing federal law on automatic weapons.

          • Oh, Nate. You're so good. You think since you follow rules that others MUST be doing the same.

            Gun shows are the wild west. The only way they could check every buyer would be to station an officer at the door to keep anyone from leaving without a check. And once they're out the door, they're gone. So if the check came back negative, they'd have to try to find this "Mr. Mickey Mouse."

            More incredible is that you believe that every person online will go through proper channels. It's like expecting every computer buyer to send it to Microsoft first, to make sure it does not give the buyer MS Office without being licensed. Any two people can connect online, and what they do is not known by any third party.

            But you're right. This should all be discussed. And we should have some limitations--and get rid of NRA's slippery slope idea that if we outlaw things like bump-stocks that next week they'll come for our slingshots.

            P.S. As soon as public attention is distracted by another tweet, Congress will forget all about doing anything about bump-stocks.

            Also:
            http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jan/07/politifact-sheet-3-things-know-about-gun-show-loop/

          • Gun shows are not the wild west, and I suspect you're not at all familiar with the process of purchasing a firearm. You don't even put hands on the gun until the background check is complete so nobody is "running out the door" in your made-up scenario. Doesn't happen.

            I'm trying to deal purely in facts, not conjecture. This is what is irritating. I'm with you in stopping bad guys from getting guns, etc... but be rational and deal in facts, or you lose credibility.

            Did I ever say that everyone does the right thing? No, I didn't. But thanks for making my point that more laws does not mean more people will follow the laws since you just told me some people don't follow the current law so why follow new laws?

            I'm just telling you what the law currently is. You want new laws? Let's properly understand and correctly define what the current law is.

            If you don't understand current law, how are you going to craft new laws?

          • You're obsessed with gun shows. Why? This guy in Vegas didn't buy a gun at a gun show or from a private party. Most criminals don't buy guns from anyone, they steal them, so the source is irrelevant. Again, what problem do you think you're solving since your gun show obsession is completely irrelevant to Las Vegas?

            This New York Times guy argues your case better for you because he dispels the myths and deals in facts. He wants the Second Amendment repealed. I disagree, but at least he seems to understand the issue correctly:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/opinion/guns-second-amendment-nra.html

            Great quote:

            "Then there are the endless liberal errors of fact. There is no “gun-show loophole” per se; it’s a private-sale loophole, in other words the right to sell your own stuff. The civilian AR-15 is not a true “assault rifle,” and banning such rifles would have little effect on the overall murder rate, since most homicides are committed with handguns. It’s not true that 40 percent of gun owners buy without a background check; the real number is closer to one-fifth."

            Stop using the wrong terms and misunderstanding the law and start understanding this topic you feel passionate about.

          • You are so mired in how things are to see how they can be. The measures I have proposed would remove rapid firing guns from the populace, not preventing future atrocity entirely, but certainly curtailing the extensive body count.

            The additional measures proposed re ownership make people culpable for their gun ownership and prevents them from passing them on without checks taking place. If they do, they become equally responsible for crimes committed with that weapon. If stolen, they can then report it stolen.

            The reason we are talking about various aspects is because ALL of these factors feed into the same problem. It is similar to people who cite Chicago having strong gun control laws, yet it doesn't appear to work. Of course it doesn't because the laws do not ban weapons and weapons are easily obtainable by crossing the state line. Which is why I stated that these changes need to be federally enforced.

            You cannot put a Bandaid on a gaping hatchet wound and think it will be effective. The changes have to be sweeping to get guns out of circulation and reduce out ridiculous gun violence statistics same as every other country who has effected them and succeeded. We simply cannot sit on out added anymore on this. A strong stance has to be taken. No one's rights are being taken away by these changes. And if you care to discuss the ridiculously outdated 2nd amendment, I would be delighted to advise you why it is completely redundant in a modern context.

          • Almost every kind, but specialize in: Java, C#, web apps, Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, game development. A bit of everything really :)

          • I see, a jack of many trades. That's what I do also, mainly C# but also Objective-C for iOS development.

      • Automatic weapons are not banned. They were banned in 1994, but that was only effective for 10 years.

        Transfer of weapons has to be under the same regulations as initial ownership.

        Any weapon that can fire rounds in rapid succession needs to be banned from private ownership. There is zero requirement for anyone to own such a weapon. Their sole purpose is the rapid termination of human life.

        Anything that fires more than a single bullet or allows for rapid triggering needs to be banned, yes.

        You do want to do something about gun violence and stem the flow of these regular unnecessary tragedies, right? The measures I have outlined are how to do it. The right to safety outweighs the privilege to have fun with guns. The facts are clear regarding the myths of protection and yet people still refuse to accept it.

        The sad fact is that nothing will happen here. Again. If 26 kids dying needlessly was not sufficient to prompt action then 58 country fans will do nothing either. People are simply more in love with their gun myths than they are about reasonable public safety measures.

        • You're incorrect about "automatic weapons" unless you're intentionally equating semi-auto with fully-auto.

          Almost every shotgun used for hunting is semi-automatic and has been for decades. As is every handgun that's not a revolver. You're talking about almost every gun included in your ban.

          The National Firearms Act of 1934 banned the sale of "machine guns" and other fully automatic weapons in response to mobsters. It has been on the books since then.

          The 1994 Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (commonly known as the Assault Weapons Ban) had to do specifically with certain semi-automatic rifles which posses certain features that were used to define the gun as a "assault weapon." This expired in 2004, as you said. But it had nothing to do with banning fully automatic weapons where you hold the trigger down and the gun keeps firing. Those are regulated by the 1934 law.

          There is a very distinct difference between semi-auto and fully-automatic. I'm just making the point because the law currently views them differently even if you don't.

          How will your gun ban get past the courts?

          Also, this is an interesting read since it's based 100% on data, no politics involved:

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-used-to-think-gun-control-was-the-answer-my-research-told-me-otherwise/2017/10/03/d33edca6-a851-11e7-92d1-58c702d2d975_story.html

          • Allegedly banned in 1930 yet still available to the public in 2017. Yeah. Makes sense.

            Ok, let us simplify here. Let's assume we ensure that fully automatic weaponry is completely inaccessible to citizenry as it should be. I think we agree on that.

            Now, semi-automatic. Let's first ensure that anything that supports burst fire is equally inaccessible for public purchase. These two measures alone take burst fire put of the equation. These alone could prevent a lot of tragedies from occurring.

            Thereafter, we would need to further control any other semi-automatic weaponry, but I will concede this measure for now despite it being absolutely necessary to reduce gun violence in the US. Automatic and burst fire must be out of civilian access. And clearly, as has been evidenced on far too many occasions, they are not.

            And the requirement to register ownership and transfer of weapons will help stamp out any illegal access.

            How is that for a concession? You have to start somewhere to get guns out of the hands of those who will inevitably do harm. And the only way to do that is to apply that kind of ban across everyone. No one needs burst fire or fully automatic weapons. Unless you want regular atrocity, of course.

          • Where are automatic weapons available to the public? Fully automatic weaponry is currently inaccessible to the average citizenry. Fully automatic weapons have been used in a crime less than a handful of times since the 1930s.

            Furthermore, there is nothing available on the market that fires in "bursts" available either, since it falls under the category of being fully automatic.

            As i understand it, the things you want to ban are already banned, unless I'm misunderstanding.

            Let me ask you about registration. This Vegas shooter, for example, apparently bought everything legally. He had no prior criminal record. No prior mental health record, no flags to prevent a legal sale.

            Do you think his guns being registered to himself would have made a difference? He didn't try to sell them or transfer them.

            Furthermore, a law requiring someone to go through some process to transfer a weapon will only be followed by people who themselves pose no threat? Am I wrong?

            Criminals will not follow laws about transferring weapons, as they don't currently follow laws on much of anything.

          • You are contradictory here.

            You say that automatic weapons are banned and unavailable to the public.

            You then say that the Vegas shooter owned his guns legally.

            If they are banned, then he does not own them legally at all. So, where is the loophole here?

            Criminals not following laws has to be the stupidest argument against reasonable gun control measures I ever hear. Why do you think we have laws at all then? We know that people will transgress laws anyway. But having a law allows us to a) reduce a problem and b) make it punishable by law. By your logic, we should eradicate ALL laws as people will just break them anyway. Surely you can see the stupidity in that logic?

            We require sensible laws to help eradicate or minimize the issue at hand. And throwing your hands in the air helplessly because you don't have the wherewithal to effect positive change just isn't going to cut the mustard, I am afraid. The changes I am suggesting will minimize access and minimize damage when disaster strikes, as well as protecting legal, safe gun owners too. Other than conspiracy nuts, no one is against such simple, reasonable measures. Oh, and the NRA, of course. SMH.

          • I'm not trying to be combative, just actually have a civil discussion. And I thank you for indulging in it with me.

            The Vegas shooter did not use fully automatic weapons in this massacre according to what we know so far.

            He MIGHT (not confirmed by authorities yet) have modified weapons and/or used some other accessory to allow more rapid fire, but the guns themselves appear to be standard off the shelf AR-15 rifles (or similar) which are not fully automatic. One trigger pull, one round.

            Summarizing your proposal:

            1) Ban automatic weapons (already banned)
            2) Require registration
            3) Require registration when transferring

            Is that basically correct?

          • I have already laid out the measures so I won't go over that again.

            Another problem: "standard off the shelf AR-15 rifles". These should not be available to citizens, as I have stated previously. Zero requirement for anyone to own one, especially if it can be easily modified to fire automatically. The guy in Vegas was firing automatically whether modified or otherwise.

            Any other weaponry requires licensing, training, insurance and background checks, as well as transfer restrictions same as vehicles to ensure that people cannot access guns without background checks taking place. And if it does occur, then the person engaged in an illegal transfer can be prosecuted if the weapon is then used illegally. That would then make people think twice about transferring guns without going through the proper procedure. They then become culpable for their crime.

            All that if, and only if, we are serious about tackling the problem such as in other countries with vastly positive results e.g. Australia.

          • I don't think the data supports your assertions that it's simply a matter of a few more laws to fix the problem. Obviously entire classes of guns that are owned far and wide can't/won't be banned or confiscated.

            I defer to the data, from the linked article, because that is the scientific way to approach this:

            "I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths."

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-used-to-think-gun-control-was-the-answer-my-research-told-me-otherwise/2017/10/03/d33edca6-a851-11e7-92d1-58c702d2d975_story.html?utm_term=.83209aa129e5

          • No, it’s a classic example of using data to form knowledge from which public policy can be crafted.

          • Reports are that "bump stocks" turn "legal" semi-automatic rifles into automatic rifles, but bump stocks are "perfectly" legal.

            The massacre did, however, temporarily stop the rush in legalizing silencers. If the people in Vegas didn't hear the pop-pop-pop of the shooter, they probably would have thought people were fainting from the heat. . .

          • The bump stock things are destined to be banned which seems reasonable since it’s in line with current law that forbids automatic weapons.

            The “silencer” thing is a red herring. They’re actually called suppressors and do not silence a weapon like you’d see in the movies. They reduce a gunshot sound to approximately a jackhammer sound. They’re being made easier buy since they help save hearing when target shooting. That bill should move forward but will be stalled because of the misinformation campaign.