What do we say now?
What do we do now?
What do I, a longtime gun owner, say now?
The deadly barrage unleashed from above at one of America's favorite playgrounds has taken dozens of lives. More may die, as some of the more than 500 injured succumb to grave wounds.
From what we know, the shooter was a 64-year-old white man firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, using rifles, which are effective at a distance, to turn the country music Route 91 Harvest Festival into a killing zone.
I am a lawful gun owner and I am as sickened as you, maybe more, because this slaughter — modern history's deadliest mass killing by gun by an American on American soil — will be used to recharge the batteries on calls for gun control.
I support some measures — such as universal background checks, closing all gun-sale loopholes and others — but some antigun forces will try to use the Las Vegas massacre as a battering ram to drive legislation to punch holes in the Second Amendment. That will create a backlash, because about one-third of Americans own guns.
At least 20 rifles, including AR-15-style assault rifles, were found in the gunman's hotel room, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, the New York Times reported Monday evening.
At the risk of ticking off — again — some of my fellow gun owners, let me say we should ban magazine clips that hold more than 10 bullets. That would slow down the shooter. I'd also ban so-called assault weapons, even though it was done once before with little positive result.
Real assault rifles, used by the military, are capable of automatic, continuous fire. Civilian versions require one pull on the trigger to fire one bullet and are dressed up with gimmicks like folding stocks, telescopic sights, flash suppressors, and the like.
These weapons were banned between 1994 and 2003, with little effect on gun violence for reasons that are argued to this day.
The next ban must be more comprehensive, banning not the look of the rifle, but its semiautomatic action. I say that reluctantly, fearing a slippery slope toward gun confiscation, but a semiautomatic ban still leaves a lot of choices in the hands of hunters and sport shooters.
In Las Vegas, police responded quickly and effectively. When they burst into the hotel room, they reportedly found that homicidal gunman Stephen Paddock had also been suicidal and had killed himself. He apparently had no arrest record, and barring institutionalization for mental problems, the shooter legally could have bought a gun, or many guns.
Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo described the attack as the work of a "lone wolf."
A rabid wolf. A homicidal, suicidal wolf.
We don't know how Paddock acquired his arsenal, the means of murder, nor do we know the motive for his crime. In the end, the motive doesn't matter because he had the means.
So, what do we do about that?
As a lawful gun owner, as a defender of the Bill of Rights — all of them — I say you can't saddle the 99.9 percent of gun owners who have done nothing wrong with the sins of the 0.1 percent who have criminal intent.
But it gets harder for me to say that, to believe that, each time something like this happens. It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.
I still believe I — and you — have a right to self-defense and to own a gun, but not any gun.
So, reluctantly, I support prohibitions against high-capacity magazines and semiautomatic rifles.
Not because I want to. I feel I have to.