Las Vegas Shooting Evokes Gun Control Debate

Las Vegas Gun Control DebateIn the wake of the Las Vegas mass-shooting, many have called for improving the regulatory measures that surround the purchase and ownership of firearms.

Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel room onto the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada last Sunday, Oct. 1—terrorizing concert-goers, and leaving 58 dead and nearly 500 more injured.

Last Thursday, Oct. 5, the Clark County Coroner’s office released the identities of the victims who were killed in the attack: 36 women and 22 men, as old as 67 and as young as 20. The devastating calamity has been confirmed as the worst mass shooting in modern-American history. 

Limiting gun ownership is not an unfamiliar initiative, and the topic of gun control has long been a torrid and poignant discussion. “[The Las Vegas shooting] isn’t the first time we’ve heard about these tragic events,” Dr. Sue Stark, an associate professor in the Department of English, says, “I think it’s absolutely horrible; unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last time… If we didn’t do anything after the shooting at Sandy Hook, I didn’t think we would do anything at all.”

“I’m surprised we haven’t done anything [to enforce stricter gun laws] sooner,” Starke says. From Sandy Hook Elementary School to the Orlando Pulse nightclub, we often find ourselves in similar conversations like this one: what can we do to improve common-sense gun control? Many argue that such actions would be in violation of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms—a right that is visceral to many Americans, and one that “was of some importance in winning independence from the British Empire,” Dr. DeRosa, History Program Director at MU, notes.

However, the discussion is not over whether or not the Second Amendment should be repealed; it’s about how to cooperate with the Constitution in order to deliver the most effective regulations. Nevertheless, many still contend that gun-control simply doesn’t work. “I think if you look at Chicago where [there was] over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes,” White House press-secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated at a news conference, “They have the strictest gun laws in the country and that certainly hasn’t helped there.”

However, although that assumption might have been true a decade ago, Chicago has since softened its gun laws over the years. Chicago was once the only major U.S. city that still had an ordinance which banned residents from keeping a handgun in their home. However, the National Rifle Association (N.R.A) and the Second Amendment Foundation appealed a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, causing Chicago to lift said ban, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Moreover, the requirement for Chicago gun-owners to register their firearms with the city and obtain a permit has been annulled; and the Illinois General Assembly, under federal courts’ scrutiny, passed a concealed-carry law in 2013. Additionally, with virtually no gun stores in Chicago and hardly any background check loopholes, it’s clear that Chicago’s guns are being acquired elsewhere—namely, from bordering states with subpar gun laws. In fact, Chicago Law Enforcement officials conclude that 60 percent of confiscated guns come from Indiana, Wisconsin, and Mississippi; “the other 40 percent come from suburban Cook County and nearby suburbs,” Dahleen Glanton reports. Such discrepancies require legislation at a federal level, and many lawmakers have advocated for such measures.

After listening to audio from the night of the Las Vegas shooting, experts explain that, “the continuous gunfire indicates Paddock used at least one automatic weapon, meaning he could unleash the contents of an entire clip by pulling the trigger once and holding it down,” according to the Orange County Register. Twelve of his rifles were equipped with “bump-stocks”, the New York Times reports.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill last Wednesday that would outlaw aforementioned bump-stocks: gun accoutrement used to increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic weapons. Typically, a semi-automatic fires at a rate of 45-60 rounds per minute; whereas with a bump-stock, it can fire up to 800 rounds per minute. Moreover, “[Feinstein’s] bill would ban the sale, transfer, import, manufacture, or [possession] of bump-stocks, trigger cranks, and other modifications that can increase a semi-automatic weapon’s firing rate”, according to Think Progress.

This discussion has been brought here to New Jersey, wherein State-senators Raymond Lesniak and Richard Codey—along with Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg—have introduced legislation in the New Jersey State-Senate to ban the sale and possession of bump-stocks. “[The Las Vegas gunman’s] firepower was dramatically increased by using these bump stocks to effectively convert his weapons into fully-automatic rifles,” Senator Lesniak says, “The sale and possession of these devices need to be outlawed.” Additionally, Governor Christie’s has released a statement saying that he “looks forward to working with legislature on this issue.”

Ironically, bump stocks are currently legal to sell, purchase, and own in New Jersey yet they are not legal to possess in the state if they are utilized on a firearm or are in the vicinity of a firearm on which it could be placed. In other words, you can buy them; you just cannot use them for their purpose. “I think it’s a good thing that they’re talking about regulating guns and devices [like the bump-stocks],” Katherine Fitzgerald, a Secondary Education major says, “especially after the past 16 months.”

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