Despite Mourning and Outcry, Doubts Las Vegas Massacre Will Lead to Stricter Gun Laws
"I heard colleagues confide that any vote for gun safety would lower their NRA scores, making them casualties in the next election."
As the nation processes another mass shooting, gun control groups, lawmakers, and other public figures were demanding on Tuesday that Congress finally say "enough is enough" and pass legislation to keep assault weapons and high-capacity magazines out of the hands of civilians—but many expressed concern that as the country has seen with other mass shootings, nothing would change.
Twenty-three firearms were found in the hotel room where Stephen Paddock carried out the shooting Sunday night, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500. While automatic weapons are effectively banned in the U.S., some exceptions allow civilians to obtain them. It's also possible—and legal in some cases—to modify semi-automatic weapons, making them capable of firing hundreds of rounds in under a minute. There is currently no federal ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
While investigators are still determining the specifics of how Paddock obtained his weapons, gun control advocates say it's time to talk about legislation that could prevent the next mass shooting.
In a video for GQ, journalist Keith Olbermann called for the National Rifle Association to be designated a "terrorist organization" for its non-negotiable defense of the Second Amendment, a law that was written "to keep the federal government from taking away the right of each state to maintain its own militia" but has become "an excuse for why madmen of whatever heritage or political purpose cannot be stopped from carrying at least 10 long rifles into a hotel room in Las Vegas and setting up a sniper’s nest and killing people."
But writing in the New York Times, former Democratic congressman Steve Israel wrote about his experience watching his colleagues take no meaningful action after mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Orlando, Florida—largely due to their subservience to the powerful gun lobby.
In the days after the murder of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Israel says, "My confidence ebbed when I heard my colleagues turn this into a debate over the rights of gun owners instead of the right to life of children. In the confines of the members-only elevators, where my colleagues could speak honestly, I heard colleagues confide that any vote for gun safety would lower their NRA scores, making them casualties in the next election."
The majority of Americans actually support a variety of gun safety measures, calling Republicans' fears into question. But regardless of the public's desire for common-sense gun control laws like universal background checks, Israel writes that the NRA is "forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme."
At Axios, Jonathan Swan wrote that President Donald Trump will also likely decline to go down in history as the American president who was able to get Congress to enact effective gun control legislation, due to his fear of losing the support of "his base."
While Trump was quoted on Tuesday as saying, "We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by," members of his inner circle told Swan that "he owes too much to the NRA and its supporters" to push for meaningful change:
"POTUS (correctly) believes he doesn't owe anything to most traditional Republican outside groups, because they didn't lift a finger to help him in the election," said a Trump administration source. "NRA is very much the exception. They stayed loyal through it all and kept spending." We're told Trump feels a personal connection to the NRA and is close to the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox.
While Trump and the rest of the Republican Party opt to demonstrate their unwavering loyalty to the NRA, however, members of the Trump resistance planned to come out in full force on Tuesday to demand stricter enforcement of gun regulations.