Regardless of whether anyone else in the world believes guns keep America more or less safe, you are free to decide for yourself whether having a gun will make you, individually, more safe. Pages of international gun-crime statistics offer very little protection if an armed robber breaks into your home in the middle of the night. Bullets go through paper like it’s nothing.
Pages of new gun-control laws similarly offer only paper protection. By definition, criminals don’t obey laws. It was already illegal to smash windows at the Mandalay Bay hotel and fire high-powered rifles at a crowd of people attending an outdoor music festival.
We don’t yet know why a 64-year-old resident of a retirement community spent a year or more painstakingly acquiring an arsenal of weapons to be used in a pre-meditated act of mass murder, but it appears that gunfire was only one facet of his monstrous plan.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that from the east-facing window of his suite, the shooter fired at two huge aviation fuel tanks located 1,100 feet from the concert site. The bullets put two holes in one of the tanks but failed to cause the explosion that likely was intended. A search of the gunman’s car in the hotel parking lot turned up 50 pounds of explosives, suggesting a possible plan for a car bomb.
One thing that’s known is that a dozen “bump-fire stocks” were found in the shooter’s hotel room. In California, bump stocks fall under the control of Section 16930 of the Penal Code as “multiburst trigger activators,” defined as “a manual or power-driven trigger activating device constructed and designed so that when attached to a semiautomatic firearm it increases the rate of fire of that firearm.” On Thursday, the National Rifle Association called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to reconsider the agency’s 2010 determination that bump stocks are legal under federal law.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not define the “arms” that Americans have the right to “keep and bear.” There’s general agreement that it’s more than a slingshot and less than a nuclear weapon, but beyond that, the argument gets testier.
A proposed law that gun-control supporters may view as a sensible restriction is often seen by gun-rights supporters in the wider context of a long, incremental and unending war on the constitutional rights of gun owners, perhaps aimed at abolishing private gun ownership altogether.
In the months ahead, as we all seek the key to preventing an incident like this from ever happening again, it’s possible that everything from hotel security policies to prescription anti-depressant warnings will come under review.
But one conclusion is inescapable. There are dangerous people who seek to do harm to others, and they can elude detection by authorities, even over a period of months or years, as they prepare their devastating attacks. Plans for smaller-scale crimes may be even less detectable.
Millions of Americans think it’s a good idea to protect themselves and their loved ones by owning firearms.
Regardless of statistical averages, they may be right. And they have that right.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group.
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