OPINION: Las Vegas two weeks later

Isaac Martin, Political Contributor

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Late on Sunday Oct. 1, a gunman opened fire on hundreds of concert-goers on Las Vegas’ strip. In what may be the biggest tragedy since Sept. 1, 2001, over 500 people were injured and at least 59 were killed. Stephen Paddock, the alleged shooter, amassed 23 firearms in his hotel room 32 stories above the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival before opening fire.

This massacre has reignited a long-running dispute over the role of guns in American society. Many politicians, sensing our current mood as a people, have lept into action proposing new legislation and regulations on firearms and related accessories. Surprisingly, the anti-gun lobby isn’t the only voice urging for more stringent language in the wake of the shootings.  

The foremost proponent of the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association, is pushing for new regulations to be issued from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). These appeals are joined by far more expansive legislation proposed by Sen Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). Both of these efforts center around a unique accessory called a bump stock which made the attack so devastating.

This firearm add-on is attached to the buttstock of a rifle and harnesses the recoil of a shot to turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one. Though both the legislation of Feinstein and the regulations proposed by the NRA are well-motivated, I submit the best arguments against these measures came from Feinstein.

After the tragedy, she was interviewed on “The Face of the Nation” and asked about the shooting. When asked if there “Could there have been any law passed that could have stopped it,” her response is mildly shocking.

“No,” she replied. “He passed background checks registering for handguns and other weapons on multiple occasions.” I would go further that that. Gun control laws are fundamentally flawed in this respect. If someone is intent on breaking the law by plotting murder, another law regulating guns won’t  stop them.

Neither the bill proposed by Feinstein nor the prospective ATF regulations will be effective in the long run.

Despite these reasons, some may ask, “Why do you even need bump stocks in the first place? Couldn’t you decrease the chance of another mass-murder like Las Vegas by banning or restricting bump stocks?” The answer to this question is yes. And no.

It’s complicated.

Yes, modified rifles were what allowed Paddock to wreak the kind of havoc he did. No, the rifles didn’t pull their own triggers. We are not facing a “gun” problem, but a “people” problem. As a people, we are flawed and filled with a base nature which propels us to things we know we ought not to do. I’m sure everyone reading has experienced this countless times where you wanted to do the “right” thing — staying on a diet, telling the truth, walking away from a fight — but failed to. Stephan Paddock is not an outlier but an example of what lies below the surface in each of us.

That’s why both the NRA and politicians like Feinstein are flawed. Any solution which seeks to address the issue of violence without acknowledging the root cause is doomed to fail.