Fifty eight people were killed and more than 500 were injured when the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The shooting took place on Oct. 1, 2017 as country music singer Jason Aldean was giving the closing performance at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired down on the concert from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel at a little after 10 p.m. and was then found an hour later by authorities having died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“There are no words to describe the sadness we feel for those who lost their lives in this tragic event,” said Paddock’s family when sending condolences to victims and their families. “Please know that you are in our prayers and that our hearts are heavy for the families who have been left heartbroken and without answers.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which the shooter kills four or more people, this shooting was the 273rd mass shooting in the United States in 2017. This has led to increased conversation surrounding the state of gun laws in the country, although some believe that talks about gun control should wait.
“There’s a time and place for a political debate but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing. “There is currently an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation. A motive is yet to be determined. And it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t fully know all the facts, or what took place last night.”
Currently, America is the top country in firearms per capita in the world and the 2007 Small Arms Survey found that the country contains 35 to 50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. While some citizens and politicians have called for more gun control, others cite the Second Amendment, which provides a right to bear arms, and argue that most gun owners don’t act the way Paddock did.
“We don’t do that crap,” said Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights. “We’re not going to give cover to politicians who vote against the Second Amendment.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) agreed with this in a statement saying that increased gun control would “do nothing to prevent further attacks.” The organization did, however, endorse tighter restrictions on the “bump stock” devices used by Paddock that allowed him to fire bullets from his rifle as fast as a machine gun could have.
“I didn’t know they existed until the incident in Las Vegas. So, certainly, I’m willing to discuss,” said Republican Sen. Joni Ernst on bump stocks. “I think it’s OK to debate it. We need to know more about it.”
On the other side of the aisle, many Democrats immediately began to take action that would implement more gun control throughout the country. There has been a call for increased background checks as well as training for gun owners. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California went as far as to introduce a new bill that would ban all devices that help semi-automatic weapons simulate guns that are fully automatic.
“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic,” said Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut in a statement. “There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”
Since the shooting, the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found in a poll that public opinion on guns was not greatly changed after the Las Vegas shooting. In similar results to what they found in July 2016, a poll from the weeks following the shooting said that 61 percent of Americans believe that gun laws should be stricter, while 27 percent believe that they should remain the same an 11 percent want restrictions to be lessened.