Las Vegas Attack Continues Grim Tradition of American Mass Shootings

San Bernandino, Tampa, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Fort Hood, Charleston. Last week, Las Vegas joined this growing list of now-familiar cities that share one grisly theme: being the site of horrific mass shootings. On Oct. 1, a gunman rained thousands of bullets on a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas strip. 58 people have died and 489 people were injured in the attack, making this the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

The police have yet to discover a motive for the gunman, who killed himself before they entered his room on the 32nd floor on the Mandalay Bay hotel. Although this shooting was marked by the severity of its death-toll, mass shootings have become a familiar and grim aspect of American society. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 278 mass-shootings in America in 2017 so far, including 7 in South Carolina that resulted in a combined 5 deaths and 32 injuries. The Gun Violence Archive classifies a mass shooting as a shooting that results in at least four people being shot in the same general vicinity and time-span.

23 firearms were found in the gunman’s suite, including high capacity magazines holding up to 100 rounds. In 1994, Congress passed legislation banning the sale of high-capacity magazines. In 2004, this legislation expired and was not renewed by Congress. Between 1982 and 2012, over half of all mass shootings involved the use of high capacity magazines, including the shootings in Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora and Fort Hood.

The epidemic of gun violence plaguing America in unheard of in other developed countries. America experiences six times the amount of gun homicides as Canada, and more than twenty times the amount of gun homicides as Australia, where strict gun control laws went into effect in 1996 after a mass shooting. Australia has not experienced a mass shooting since.

Americans own 265 million guns, more than one gun for every American adult. These guns account for over half of all the civilian guns in the world, despite Americans making up less than 5% of the world’s population. Some of the gun’s in the Las Vegas shooting were equipped with ‘bump-stocks’, which allow semi-automatic weapons to function like an automatic. These could have contributed to the staggering death toll.

The National Rifle Association, a powerful gun lobby, has stymied any efforts in recent years to regulate gun sales or ownership. Last week, Congress was scheduled to vote on a bill that would have lifted restrictions on the sale of gun silencers. That legislation has stalled in the aftermath of the shooting. Earlier in the year, the Trump administration repealed a rule that blocked certain people with mental disorders from purchasing guns.

Caleb Keeter could represent a changing public opinion towards gun control laws. He was playing guitar for Jason Aldean on stage when the attack started. “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life,” he wrote. “Until the events of last night, I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually had…legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”

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