Las Vegas Mass Shooting – Is it a Watershed Moment for Gun  Control Reforms?

Las Vegas Mass Shooting – Is it a Watershed Moment for Gun Control Reforms?

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On October 2, Las Vegas witnessed the worst mass shooting in the modern history of the United States. Shooter Stephen Paddock, a retired accountant, opened fire on concert-goers at a country music festival at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. 59 concert-goers were killed and 527 others were injured in the deadliest mass shooting since 1949. Surprisingly, the ISIS claimed responsibility for the mass shooting by identifying the shooter as “Abu Abd Abdulbar al-Ameriki” and claimed that he converted to Islam months ago. But ISIS failed to provide any evidence regarding his conversion to Islam.

Terrorism experts remain skeptical about ISIS’ claim. The terror outfit has not provided any concrete proof or evidence to substantiate its claim. Experts are of the opinion that by claiming responsibility for the mass shooting, the terror group is indicating its desperateness for claiming responsibility of high-profile attacks. ISIS has a tradition of claiming responsibility for high-profile attacks without substantiating such claims. In June 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for the Orlando shooting in which 49 people were killed. Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of Orlando shooting, was identified by Iraqi ISIS radio station al-Bayan as one of its soldiers. However, CIA’s investigation did not find any communication between Omar and the Middle-East based terror group.

Fast forward to June 2017, 37 people were killed and 70 wounded at the Resorts World Manila, Philippines. Jessie Javier Carlos, the debt-riddled perpetrator, caused a stampede and set fire to casino tables and slot machines chairs which resulted in more than 100 casualties. ISIS’ claim of responsibility initially suggested that it was a terror attack. However, evidence later confirmed that the attack was financially motivated.

It was the 273rd mass shooting incident in the US. In 2017 to date, nearly 12,000 people have lost their lives while almost 24,000 wounded in gun violence incidents. These staggering figures highlight the necessity of introducing gun-related reforms in America.

The Las Vegas shooting incident was not an isolated case. It was the 273rd mass shooting incident in the US. In 2017 to date, nearly 12,000 people have lost their lives while almost 24,000 wounded in gun violence incidents. These staggering figures highlight the necessity of introducing gun-related reforms in America.

In the US, right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. However, the right to bear arms has some serious repercussions for the American society. Among the developed nations, the US remains the most violent nation due to easy access to firearms. Despite constituting 4.4% of the world’s population, the Americans own 42% civilian-owned guns in the world. No federal laws ban semi-automatic weapons, handguns, military-style rifles or limit high-capacity magazine ammunition in a country where 310 million guns are in circulation.

Pro-gun lobby claims several benefits of civilians having access to firearms. The lobby claims that armed society is a polite society. But various studies have shown that being armed increase your chances of getting into a confrontation. Another benefit claimed by the lobby is that possessing guns can help good guys stop bad guys. However, armed civilians have failed to stop any mass shooting in more than three decades. The most popular advantages claimed by the lobby is that owning a gun keeps oneself safer at home and also assists in self-defense. Contrarily, owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide and accidental death by gun.

More than 75% of the weapons used in mass shooting between 1982 and 2012 were obtained legally. 55 percent of American voters also would like to see stricter rules for buying guns, according to a recent Gallup poll.

In view of the recent tragic incident, voices are being raised again for introducing gun reforms to decrease the intensity of gun violence in the US. A number of measures are needed to be taken to control the culture of gun violence in the country. In this regard, strong background checks need to be ensured. More than 75% of the weapons used in mass shooting between 1982 and 2012 were obtained legally. 55 percent of American voters also would like to see stricter rules for buying guns, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Gun laws also need to be strengthened. Research studies have shown that there is a strong correlation of gun-related deaths and tightness of gun laws. Nevada, the state in which the deadly mass shooting took place, has some of the most relaxed gun control laws in America. The Nevada law, which has been rated C- for weak gun laws, does not require firearms’ owners to register their weapons or restrict the number of firearms an individual can own. Automatic assault weapons and machine guns are also legal in the state provided that they are registered and within federal compliance.

Mass shootings constitute a tiny fraction of the gun-related deaths in the US every year. Majority of deaths through gun violence are suicides. Statistics also indicate that most suicides are reported from those states which also possess more guns. Out of 31,000 gun-related deaths in 2010, 19,000 (or 61 percent) were suicides. Therefore, it is important to identify such individuals in society who are likely to target themselves by restricting their access to guns.

In addition, smart policing can also be an effective way in controlling gun-related deaths across the US. In 1996, “ceasefire” or “focused deterrence” strategy was launched in Boston with the coordination of police departments, prosecutors and community members. Under this initiative, young gang members were offered both assistance and law enforcement attention. Consequently, the strategy helped in reduction of monthly youth homicides by 63%, the sudden decrease in violence was dubbed as “the Boston miracle”. But to make such initiatives effective it is also important to address police departments’ racial legacies and failed violent prevention strategies.

The Las Vegas tragedy can be a watershed moment for ending the culture of gun violence in the US. If gun control reforms are effectively implemented, America can get rid of this problem once and for all. Failure to introduce reforms, even after such a horrendous tragedy, will only increase the intensity of the gun violence culture with more deadly mass shooting expected in future.

Fahad Nabeel
Fahad Nabeel studies Journalism and Mass Communication from the Virtual University of Pakistan. Fahad has considerably researched on regional geo-political issues and militancy trends. Currently, he is working as an intern in the R&D Department of CSCR.

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