In divided America, the aftermath of a mass shooting follows an all-too-predictable pattern. So it was Monday as the nation awoke to the horror that a domestic terrorist identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, had opened fire Sunday night from a 32nd floor Las Vegas hotel room, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500 others. It was among the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
Gun-company shares opened higher on Wall Street. Timid politicians offered predictable “thoughts and prayers,” but nothing concrete. Bolder politicians renewed their call for common-sense gun regulations, knowing that a Republican-led Congress in thrall to the gun lobby won’t go there, despite widespread public support for tighter regulation. Phony news sites immediately jumped to conclusions that met their predetermined position.
Americans know the drill all too well. We’ve had a lot of experience. The Washington Post compiled a list of 131 mass shootings since 1966. All but three events involved a lone killer who killed at least four people. The dead total 947, including 145 children and teenagers.
Semiautomatic handguns and assault-style semiautomatic rifles were most often used, most of them obtained legally. Police said Paddock had 19 weapons in his room at the Mandalay Hotel, with multiple magazines and perhaps modifications allowing very rapid fire. They did the job they were designed for with brutal efficiency.
There is no justifiable civilian need for an assault rifle designed specifically for soldiers to kill the enemy. The gun lobby claims they have sporting and self-defense purposes and successfully overturned a 10-year ban on them in 2004.
This week, the U.S. House is expected to take up H.R. 367, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017. The bill would make it easier and cheaper to buy silencers, sometimes known as suppressors. They reduce a weapon’s noise as well as its fiery flash. Noise and muzzle flash from Paddock’s weapons helped police locate him.
Stock in Outdoor Brands Corp., parent company of Smith & Wesson, jumped 2.3 percent at the opening bell Monday. Shares in two other gun-makers, Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Vista Outdoor Inc., also were up. Investors think fear and the mere discussion of tighter gun regulation will drive sales. Gun sales have been depressed since President Donald Trump’s election after booming during the Obama years.
Islamic State propaganda claimed Paddock had converted to its cause several months ago; the FBI said no such link has been found. The Islamic State is no more opportunistic than St. Louis’ Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit fake news site identified the wrong suspect as a Rachel Maddow-watching liberal. Before the post was taken down, Facebook had given it prominent play.
A nation that fights foreign terror must not surrender to those who exploit domestic terror for political and financial gain. Thoughts and prayers alone won’t get it done.
The following editorial appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, Oct. 3