Las Vega Shooting And Gun Problem

Jesse Anderso

It’s a question that Americans often get while traveling abroad: Usually it’s phrased more or less along the lines of, “What’s the deal with your country’s gun obsession?” And in the wake of one of the U.S.’s all-too-frequent mass shootings, like the one that occurred in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 and left 58 people dead and more than 500 injured, the question only becomes more common.
Unfortunately, it has no easy answer. Of all the many convoluted and polarising issues that exist in the US right now, gun ownership is arguably one of the most difficult to wade your way through. Unlike, say, abortion or gay marriage, a change in policy isn’t as simple as deciding that something - e.g., abortion past a certain term - is now legal or not legal. Because even if a national law is passed banning the sale, or even ownership, of a specific group of firearms, there remains the fact that there are thousands, possibly millions, of that very group of arms already in circulation throughout the country.

Take the AR-15. The gun has been used in a number of notorious mass shootings in the US, and many Democrats have repeatedly called for it to be outlawed - the logic being, of course, that fewer people would have the guns and, consequently, fewer people would be killed by them. The counter-argument to this line of reasoning is that it would be easy enough for someone determined to commit a mass shooting to find an AR-15 on the black market, since so many people have already legally bought them. The one obvious way around this problem (i.e., a nation-wide confiscation of AR-15s) would be met with so much resistance that’s essentially pointless to even offer it as a solution.
This isn’t to suggest that bans on certain weapons that are now legal shouldn’t be pursued. It’s certainly possible that they would deter certain people from committing horrendous crimes. But - and this is a point the American right often makes - behind the issue of gun availability still lies the deeper question of “why?”
So: Why has America experienced so many mass shootings in recent decades? Is it due exclusively to the ease with which American citizens can acquire semi-automatic weapons? Would other countries have the same problem if their gun laws were as lax as America’s? Many conservatives would say no and then point to some perceived societal flaw that lies behind the mystery.
A commonly cited culprit is America’s high rate of prescription drug usage, most specifically anti-depressants and opioid-based drugs, from which stems two explanations: One is that these drugs may alter a person’s behaviour and thus make them more likely to commit a mass shooting; the other is the argument that so many people being described (in the case of anti-depressants) or abusing (in the case of opioids) these drugs indicate some serious problems in the American psyche. It should be said, however, that the people making these arguments are often pundits with little or no psychological training whose opinions regarding prescription drugs should be taken very lightly. And another thing to take into account is the fact that if the issue really is something off-kilter in the deeper recesses of the American mind, then the solution, should it ever be reliably identified, would take years or decades to take effect, leaving plenty of time for who knows how many more mass shootings to take place.
Can Americans really expect anything to change vis-à-vis this issue? The country’s gone through an embarrassing amount of mass shootings in the last ten years, and not only are there no signs of them going away, they seem to be getting worse every year (the shooting in Las Vegas is the worst in American history; the second worst is last year’s shooting in Orlando). And every time one occurs, the country goes through the same routine - a late night talk show host breaks down giving a speech about the shooting, Democrats push for tighter gun control, and Republicans try to blame the tragedy on something unrelated to firearms. Then a month or a year goes by and the same thing happens all over again.

It’s a complicated topic. And what has made the Las Vegas shooting even more complicated than most mass shootings is that no convincing motive has been attributed to the perpetrator. Steven Paddock, a 64 year old millionaire - his background is the opposite of your typical mass shooter. If we can’t find reasons, then solutions will only be that much harder to come by.

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