2017-10-06 / Opinion

ENOUGH

EDITORIAL

“There will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”

That was White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deflecting questions about gun control in the wake of this nation’s worst mass shooting in recent history.

That was also a load of crap.

Lawmakers can offer their thoughts and prayers after the massacre of nearly 60 innocent people at a Las Vegas concert. But if they can’t offer anything else, then it is long-past time to start throwing the bums out.

Certainly any tool can be a weapon in the wrong hands — that’s been proven in acts of terrorism abroad and in Charlottsville, where vehicles were driving into crowds with deadly results.

The tools used by Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock included modified semiautomatic rifles, and one wonders whether Paddock would he have been able to inflict that level of carnage with a bat. A knife. A pistol.

There are times when firearms in civilian hands have been effective deterrents — such was the case when two bystanders with firearms broke up an altercation in an Augusta Walmart in 2016.

But do we need an AR-15 for personal protection? Are we safer for having semiautomatic weapons in our homes — weapons that, with the help of kits readily available online, can be converted to more deadly, automatic style firing? Would a “good guy with a gun” have been able to stop Paddock, firing from his 32nd-floor hotel room?

The right to bear arms is protected under the Constitution. But the right to life is stated in the Declaration of Independence. The former should not supersede the latter.

As of this writing, investigators are still searching for a motive, but it’s not unfair to speculate that mental illness was a factor. House Speaker Paul Ryan clearly thought as much when he told reporters Tuesday: “One of the things … we have learned from these shootings, is often a diagnosis of mental illness.”

Yet Ryan backed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which allows more access to mental health care through Medicaid expansion. While Republicans won’t take your guns, they seem all too willing to limit access to affordable mental health care.

Maybe it’s too optimistic to hope any real reform will come out of Congress, which, in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, opted to value the right to own large-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets over the safety of school children.

After the Vegas shooting, Mitch McConnell told reporters, “I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any.” That statement shows a resounding lack of leadership from the Senate majority leader.

Yet, some Republicans wasted little time in calling for action following the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernadino, California. One presidential candidate at the time called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and now sits on the Oval Office.

There may be some hope on the horizon. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that “Congress needs to take a look at ‘bump stocks’ that can effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automated weapons.” The AP reported “John Cornyn of Texas, has made similar comments, as have other Republicans.”

You can’t end mass shootings through legislation alone, but there are some common sense solutions. Banning the bump stocks Paddock reportedly used to increase the firing rate of his rifles is just one of them.

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Thank you for this editorial.

Thank you for this editorial. I couldn't agree more. We can't continue to through up our hands and yet do nothing. We have to take away the influence of the extreme NRA.