Inaction on Capitol Hill paves the way for crimes like the Las Vegas shooting

By Hunter Kaap Rencis | 10/11/17 11:29pm

At 10:05 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, shots of automatic weapon fire cascaded across the Las Vegas Strip, reverberating off the high-rise hotels that surrounded the Route 91 Harvest Festival where thousands of attendees were enjoying one of country music’s biggest events of the year. 

Most of the images taken when shots first rang out reveal the initial shock and disbelief of those present. No one in the crowd wanted to believe that the repetitive hum and steady cadence of popping that rang over their heads could possibly be the chatter of automatic weapon fire and not simply fireworks or stage pyrotechnics. 

The chaos that ensued would last only 10 minutes, but it is believed that more than 600 rounds of ammunition rained down on the concert, ultimately resulting in the deaths of 59 people and more than 500 injured.

At first, it might seem unthinkable that one person managed to accumulate an arsenal of 23 fully loaded, high-capacity, long-range rifles (with more in other locations), two of which were mounted on tripods for accuracy and located inside two separate hotel rooms on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. But perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the U.S’ most recent benchmark mass murder is that each and every one of the weapons used to commit this crime was purchased legally under U.S. law. 

In 2016, over the course of one year, the shooter was able to purchase 33 assault weapons in four different states from store owners or federal agencies without setting off any red flags. These semi-automatic weapons are purchased by law-abiding Americans every day, and though the weapons themselves are not illegal, the shooter in this case had modified his weapons to mimic fully automatic assault weapons, which were banned from consumer purchase in 1986. 

Although Sunday, Oct. 1, will be remembered for the unprecedented and unspeakable acts that took place, it is unlikely that the horrific crime will be the last of its kind, the reason being that our elected leaders in Congress aren’t always as accountable to the voters that they are elected to represent as one might hope. 

Certain issues, especially ones like gun control, are surrounded by special-interest groups in Washington called lobbyists. So instead of there being a two-way dialogue between our elected leaders and members of the public, we have witnessed industries like oil and natural gas companies, and countless other special-interest organizations, seep their way into every elected seat in Congress in some way. 

Lobbies are firms that invest billions every year into the campaigns of U.S. congressional leaders so that once these leaders are elected to Congress, these industries may gain favorability among those lawmakers down the road. When it comes to regulations that Congress places on enormous industries like oil and gas companies, I think we all can agree that the role of Congress should be to represent the best interest of the public, not corporations and lobbyists. 

Rarely are the resulting regulations placed on powerful industries decided based on what’s best for the public. Rather, politicians collect millions from different lobbyists each term; this is, in fact, almost always one of the ways congressional races are funded and won on Capitol Hill. 

One of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, D.C., is the National Rifle Association (NRA). Never is that more apparent than in the days directly following an appalling act of violence like the one we witnessed Sunday, Oct 1. I believe we should all recognize the fact that we as Americans are passionate and divided on the issue surrounding our Second Amendment right to bear arms. 

That being said, the widespread lack of regulation on assault weapons has been a no-brainer that somehow continues to elude firm and decisive legislation that would limit, or even monitor, the sale of these weapons. From my perspective, as a young person and frequent concertgoer, if a mass murder of nearly 60 innocent people is not a turning point or a wake-up call for our leaders, then I don’t think it’s realistic to expect anything to change Congress’ response to issues like these. 

Although we have entrusted Congress to write laws that protect us, their inability to mobilize on issues like climate change and gun control leaves us vulnerable to heinous crimes and tragic loss time and time again. 

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