Democrats, the mainstream media, and the Hollywood elite could not wait until the dead had been counted in the Las Vegas mass shooting before pressing for gun control — despite any definitive information about what kind of weapons the killer used, and in the absence of any knowledge about his motivations.
President Donald Trump is also signaling some openness to new gun laws — at a later time, perhaps, but with a strong inclination to act.
In the wake of terrible events like the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay, it is tempting, and understandable, to demand that our elected leaders “do something.”
But what, in fact, would have prevented Stephen Paddock from committing mass murder?
Short of banning all guns — which could never be achieved, politically or practically, and would ensure that only criminals are armed — what could actually be done?
Hillary Clinton embarrassed herself with her talk of banning “silencers.” Jimmy Kimmel, bashing Republicans on Monday evening, presented a wish list of gun controls that had no connection to the Las Vegas shooting.
We know that at least some of Paddock’s guns were purchased legally, via federal background checks. He may have bought an illegal automatic weapon, or illegally modified a legal semi-automatic weapon. Either way, there is no easy fix.
One possibility is that Paddock used a “bump stock,” a legal device that can be applied to a semi-automatic, one-pull-one-bullet rifle to mimic the rapid-fire effect of automatic weapons. Presumably, once the left updates its talking points, that will become a focus for regulation. But similar equipment is widely owned by people who do not use it to kill others. And to many gun owners, banning bump stocks will be seen as the start of a slippery slope.
Whether you believe that the government should “do something” may depend at least partly on whether you believe human behavior can be entirely controlled by laws and rules. Paddock went to unusual, unforeseeable lengths to commit his crime: choosing a corner suite; concealing his many weapons from hotel staff; smashing two windows to create firing platforms; and so on. Most bizarrely, no one close to him seems to have suspected his intentions.
Las Vegas has reminded us, traumatically, of the human capacity for evil. In the heroism and self-sacrifice of many of those present, it has also reminded us of the human capacity for good. It may be best to find ways to express the latter rather than waging a futile effort to eliminate the former — especially when a fundamental right is involved.
A new gun law might make politicians feel good, but it is tough to see yet how any such law would make a difference.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.