On Sunday night, a gunman on the 32nd floor of Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay Resort opened fire on a crowd of thousands of people attending the final night of a county music festival. As of Monday afternoon, at least 58 people are dead and over 500 are injured.
Police report that the 64 year-old-gunman, Stephen Paddock, turned his weapon on himself before law enforcement could breach his hotel room. He had over ten rifles with him.
Video shows that the bullets were coming in continuous rapid fire for up to nine seconds at a time, before the shooter presumably took breaks to reload his weapon and began shooting again. One of the performers at the concert said the bullets were “nonstop” and added that it was like “shooting fish in a barrel.”
Public officials swarmed social media to condemn the violence, offer condolences to the people impacted, and chart a path for moving forward. After Tweeting her support for victims and first responders, Hillary Clinton added, “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
Today, if someone wants to buy a silencer, they face waiting times, a $200 transfer tax, and a record of the purchase by federal law enforcement. But the so-called Hearing Protection Act being considered in Congress would get rid of all of those safeguards.
As early as this week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill to de-regulate gun silencers. Despite widespread opposition from police organizations and gun violence prevention groups, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has thrown their full support behind the bill. The NRA argues that silencers are necessary to protect hunters’ hearing, but law enforcement and military experts argue that there are already a number of effective hearing protection products on the market, and that gun silencers pose more harm than good.
Assault weapons, like the one experts presume was used by the shooter, are not illegal to purchase in the United States. In 1994, Congress passed the federal Assault Weapons Ban, which successfully led to a decrease in total gun murders, and use of assault weapons in crimes declined by two-thirds over nine years. But the ban expired in 2004, and Congress has refused to reauthorize it despite the role assault weapons have played in multiple American mass shootings. The NRA has been very active in advocating against the assault weapons ban.
The NRA is an interest group widely considered to be an advocate for the gun manufacturing industry, and contributes significant funding to political campaigns. They were the single largest donor group to President Trump’s campaign. In July, the Feminist Majority Foundation joined the Women’s March and several other organizations in a 17-mile, two-day rally to protest the NRA’s promotion of violence against progressive activists—especially women and people of color—as well as the lack of action the NRA took in response to the shooting death of Philando Castile.
Media Resources: New York Times 10/2/17; Senator Diane Feinstein 2013; Business Insider 10/2/17; US News 10/2/17