Wanta Buy A Gun?

Last Sunday in Las Vegas, our nation witnessed the biggest mass shooting in modern history. More than fifty dead and over 500 wounded. Once again this shocking slaughter of innocents had the media, politicians and the public all asking why it happened and what can be done to protect us from such horrors in the future.

Well, as far as finding the “why” of the lone shooter’s actions, even if investigations find the catalyst for Stephen Paddock’s violence was gambling debts or pent up anger at society or some kind of PTSD going back to a screwed up childhood with a psychopath father, at the root of it all Mr. Paddock was just plain nuts.

So, you might say, “Ahh, I see that’s the problem.” Just like a number of other mass shootings. The United States needs to keep better track of crazy people and take better care of them. This has been a popular “answer” batted around by Republicans after other shootings. (Although they never seem to come up with any funding.) And it is true. We do need to have more accessible, affordable mental health care available to everyone.

But, keeping track of every person who might be dangerously deranged? – In a country of over 325 million people (third largest in the world), that’s impossible. Also, a person with dangerous mental problems doesn’t always think he or she needs to seek help. And people acquainted with that person don’t always recognize their need. From what we know so far, that describes Stephen Paddock’s profile.

Beyond mental health services, it’s glaringly clear that the easy availability of war-grade assault weapons to virtually any American must be addressed. So what can be done about this? According to the Trump White House and Congressional Republicans, I shouldn’t even be discussing these questions. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanderssaid, “There’s a time and place for a political debate but now is the time to unite as a country.” — In recent years, this is language that is, not surprisingly, almost identical to statements that have been made by Republicans or their media apologists after virtually every mass shooting. — So here’s a thought: perhaps a good way to start uniting the country would be to find areas of this gun issue that the majority of Americans already agree on. Easy access to assault weapons is one such area.

Ms. Huckabee Sanders also said it would be “premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t know all the facts or what took place last night.” Well two days later, here’s what we know. Stephen Paddock, an insane man, had over twenty assault rifles in his hotel room, purchased legally as semi-automatic weapons then converted to automatic. It’s my understanding he purchased easy-to-use conversion kits sold legally on the Internet. This allowed him spray the plaza below his room with hundreds of high-powered bullets per minute. He randomly murdered dozens of human beings using the power of weapons that have no logical reason to be in a civilian’s hands. Those facts should be enough to get any discussion started.

Yesterday, our senior Democratic Senator Dick Durbin spoke out strongly about the need to address this insane situation. He said he respected the Second Amendment but it wasn’t written to be “a suicide pact.” And Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a leading gun control advocate since the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, summed thing up bluntly, “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

President Trump has called Sunday’s shootings “an act of pure evil.” He’s right. It was evil. But such language is conveniently generic, as if what happened in Las Vegas was a phenomenon beyond our control. I mean, how do you eliminate “evil?” Evil acts will always be with us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to reduce the opportunities for them to occur. – Was Stephen Paddock himself “evil.” His actions were — but the man was almost surely out of his mind.

You want purer examples of evil acts? How about people who know what they’re doing will harm many people but don’t care. How about Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) actively renewing his push to make it easier to buy gun silencers. (He backed off after Las Vegas.) Silencers have been nationally prohibited since 1934. Now, hunters say this would protect their hearing. (Ear plugs would too.) The NRA wants silencers despite the criminal and homicidal mischief they would surely bring. Rep. Duncan couldn’t care less. That’s evil.

And after the Sandy Hook shootings of all those children, their parents went to congressional offices to personally beg, face-to-face, for stronger gun laws. Members of Congress saw the parents’ anguish. They knew something should be done. But the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said, “no.” So the Republican controlled Congress ignored the grieving parents. – That’s evil.

The time to start pushing every member of Congress to debate the issue of smarter gun laws is long overdue. In 2018, we can replace the Republican defenders of the NRA with Democratic candidates committed to gun law reform. We can help remove Republican incumbents like our neighbor, Congressman Peter Roskam. I believe the only way we will ever see a serious gun debate in Congress and the creation of intelligent gun laws is with a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. As long as Republicans remain in control of Congress, the influence of the National Rifle Association will continue to erode the quality of life in every part of our nation.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973 

P.S. You may remember the stir that was caused last spring when outside money backing an ultra conservative agenda became involved in trying to upset New Trier’s one-day discussion of race in America.

A short film was created called “The Tip of the Spear,” that revealed what was going on. Now the creator of that film has taken on a larger project, the creation of a full-length documentary on big-money conservative efforts to privatize for profit America’s public education system. A Kick-starter program is underway to raise enough funding to get the project seen by producers who could make the film happen. Here’s the link to the kick-starter message. It is certainly a project with merit.