Opinion

Renée Graham

America’s lax gun laws are a form of terrorism

Semi-automatic rifles are seen for sale in a gun shop in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 4, 2017. Mass killer Stephen Paddock used semi-automatic weapons which he modified with "bump-fire stock" to make them fire at the same speed as a fully automatic weapon when he killed 58 people and injured over 500 in the worst mass shooting in modern American history on October 1, 2017 at a country music festival in Las Vegas. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Semi-automatic rifles for sale last week in a Las Vegas gun shop.

The United States of America is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Our government is complicit in at least 58 murders and more than 500 injuries at a country music festival last weekend in Las Vegas. By failing to consider even common sense gun control policies after previous mass shootings, legislators are supporting those who terrorize and kill people.

Advertisement

Not a single law prevented the Las Vegas shooter from purchasing 33 guns in the past year, most of them rifles, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. All were bought legally; he took at least 20 of them to the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, his 32nd floor room fashioned into a sniper’s nest. He purchased the last of his arsenal only days before the massacre.

“We wouldn’t get notified of the purchases of the rifles, we would only get notified if there was a multiple sale which would be two or more handguns in an individual purchase,” said Jill Snyder, ATF special agent in charge, on “CBS This Morning.”

Get Arguable with Jeff Jacoby in your inbox:
From the Globe's must-read columnist, an extra offering each week of opinion and ideas.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

President Trump was quick to call the shooter “a sick man, a demented man.” Yet when asked about new legislation, he would only say, “We’ll talk about gun laws as time goes by.” Other inane responses ranged from Senator John Thune of South Dakota saying that “in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said — get small” to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s “It’s particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this.”

What’s inappropriate is for hundreds of people to be killed or injured because one man was allowed to own dozens of high-powered firearms designed to kill scores of people in seconds. This is how your government aids and abets the terrorists among us.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, has proposed a ban on the “bump stocks” that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to transform his semi-automatic rifles into nearly automatic guns. Some Republicans and the NRA claim they are open to discussing additional regulations on these conversion kits, but stopping a very deadly weapon from becoming an extremely dangerous weapon would be faint progress at best. It’s the rifles that should be banned, not just the modification kits.

Advertisement

Of course, that’s a conversation most Republicans will not entertain. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma already said he would block a ban of AR-15s, the civilian version of the military’s M-16 favored by mass shooters. On “Morning Joe,” Cole even said of this assault weapon, “When they’re used appropriately, they’re not dangerous.”

This lowly level of discourse has stalled every major attempt to strengthen gun laws. The slaughter of 20 children and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012 should have been a stop-the-clocks moment, but it’s this nation’s shame that Republican legislators did nothing more than offer hollow “thoughts and prayers.”

Since Sandy Hook, there’s been an average of one mass shooting every day — four or more people killed or wounded, as defined by the Gun Violence Archive. (Many are linked to domestic violence, which is probably why they pass largely unnoticed.) According to a Pew Research Center poll, 68 percent favor an assault weapons ban; that hardly matters since Republicans work for the NRA, not their constituents. The Center for Responsive Politics found that the GOP received more than $54 million in advertising and donations from the NRA in 2016. To keep that money flowing, Republicans are subjecting us to relentless bloodbaths.

This is the sorrow of our American lives: carnage, families and friends devastated, and burying the dead. Make no mistake: Republican and pro-gun Democratic legislators are no less guilty in these massacres than the men who fire on concertgoers, club patrons, shoppers, or school kids. In fact, they bear even more culpability because they refuse to use their power to prevent these acts of terror.

“What is your blood price? How many more must die?” Congressman John Lewis asked as he stood on the steps of the Capitol with fellow Democrats. “This Congress has failed the American people. After Newtown and Aurora, after Charleston and Orlando, now Las Vegas, how many more must die?”

Already, that number is impossibly high. Yet after Las Vegas, we are again reminded that the GOP’s tolerance for gun violence is only surpassed by its duplicity in doing nothing to try to prevent the next massacre.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.