It was on Sunday 1 October that Stephen Paddock’s actions led to the worst mass shooting in US history. In just nine minutes, Paddock sprayed hundreds of bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel down onto happy gatherers at the Route 91 music festival taking place below. His attack is responsible for the deaths of at least 58 people, and the injuries of over 500.
Frankly, the statistics concerning shootings in the USA are terrifying. Some 11,000 people are killed by firearm assaults each year. Sunday the 1st marked the 274th day into 2017, and yet it was the 273rd mass shooting. What might be most disturbing is that the atrocities that took place in Las Vegas was not the only mass shooting in the US that day.
It is a situation we see in no other country, and for one particular reason: the USA is home to some of the most lenient gun laws of any country. Thanks to the Second Amendment, all American citizens are guaranteed the right to bear arms. In the state of Nevada, where this travesty happened, there is no requirement to get a license or register owned weapons, nor is there a limit on the number of guns a person can buy in one purchase. There is no enforcement of background checks, no regulation of firearm ownership and not even a requirement to conceal a weapon in public places. In short, Paddock broke no laws by entering the casino with 17 guns.
In contrast here in the UK, no member of the public may own a handgun or semi-automatic rifle. In order to purchase firearms, a certificate is needed that can only be issued by the police. Before the certificate is granted, a screening process must take place, checking a person’s reasons for wanting a gun, a visit to their property, an interview, a reference from a non-family member, up to date photographs and potentially a doctor’s reference.
It was after the 1996 massacre of 16 children in Dunblane, Perthshire, that the outrage from the UK population prompted a surge in public support to banish handguns. By the following year, the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 was passed which almost entirely banned private possession of handguns. Since this legislation, only one mass shooting has occurred in the country. One would believe that time after time, after each mass shooting, the US government and population might finally realise that change is needed, alas, no such decisions have been made. Not after Sandy Hook, not after the Orlando nightclub shooting, and not after Las Vegas will the laws change.
It is both disturbing and distressing that despite a never-ending fear and a catastrophic loss of lives, the gun control laws are unlikely to change. The National Rifle Association (NRA), is one of the most powerful political forces in the USA, made up of five million members helping to elect pro-gun politicians.
Furthermore, whilst there are some Democrats that oppose gun controls, the primary argument to keep gun privilege comes from the Republicans, who now dominate Congress, and even after this tragedy in Las Vegas, President Trump insists that the debate over gun control is “not for now”. Furthermore, the interpretation of the Second Amendment stating ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ has arguably been lost in modern society, and has been interpreted as the right of every individual to own a gun; arguing with the Constitution and millions of patriotic Americans means that there is little chance these laws will be changing anytime soon.
Whilst the rest of the world look over in disbelief at the gun control situation in the United States, it seems almost as if mass shootings have become the norm to its own citizens. After all, when mass shootings are taking place every other day, if change was going to happen, wouldn’t it have happened by now?
Yet the reality is that we are still one world and one people and to wake up and hear of yet another harrowing shooting is upsetting no matter how far away it is. The United States cannot go on like this. It is almost more upsetting to know as a non-American citizen, I have no power, no say, no influence and all that can be done from where I stand is to look over and hope that change will come.