By Connor Hart
America has lost the ability to mourn. In the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas on October 1st, there has been an outpouring of support and sympathy for the victims and their families. How do we know this? Numerous Twitter feeds, news articles, and conversations where our friends reference “what happened in Las Vegas” tell us so. Yet, if past experience shows anything, this will quickly fade with the next big news event, leaving those affected to try to recover until another calamity occurs. Have people outside its immediate impact been shaken? Absolutely. It reminds us of the risks we run every day, the people we have lost, and our instinct to help those affected. We feel sympathy – or, for a select few like Hayley Geftman-Gold, perhaps not.
But this is not mourning. We do not share in the experience of the survivors. We do not grieve. We have become desensitized to the event, and immediately focus on how we can prevent it in the future. A worthy goal, but the fact remains that we did not prevent this tragedy. Nor did we prevent Orlando. Or San Bernardino. Or Sandy Hook. Or Columbine. And despite all the outrage and indignation following each of these events, the attacks still happened. Political forces are already at work, telling us we should consider all our options. Should we consider more restrictive gun laws? Increase the length and complexity of screenings? Repeal the Second Amendment? I, for one, volunteer a different idea. Take a breath. Understand that at least 58 people have lost their lives. Neither my words, nor anyone else’s, can do credit to just one life, much less 58. Mourn for those lost so they do not become another part of a growing list.
Unfortunately, while we may try to live this out, others have already brought to the public consciousness the aforementioned ideas. Gun control is once again the issue of the day. So it becomes our responsibility to mourn, but also to defend our rights from infringement. To that end, let’s take a look at firearms.
The typical assumption made by gun control enthusiasts is that more restrictive laws regarding firearms will reduce gun crime. This is difficult to conclusively prove or disprove, given the nature of the statistical test. We can only look to various policies and try to discern their effectiveness. But let us assume this is true. Perhaps gun-specific crimes will go down. What then? Will tragedies like Las Vegas cease? Of course not.
Looking outside of the United States, we find 130 dead in Paris in November 2015, 32 dead in Brussels in March 2016, and 22 dead in Manchester in May 2017. Many of these deaths were not by bullets, but by bombs placed by terrorists. An additional example may be found in the 2016 Bastille Day incident in Nice, when 86 people were killed by a truck. Later that year, another 12 were also killed in an intentional truck attack in Berlin. In each of these countries – France, Belgium, Germany, and the UK – far stricter gun laws than the those in the States may be found. In France, for example, “to own a gun, you need a hunting or sporting license which needs to be repeatedly renewed and requires a psychological evaluation.” There is no Second Amendment protection for France. So we must conclude that gun laws do not prevent these tragedies, or reduce their scale. These were not committed with guns, admittedly, but bombs are a more effective alternative to guns, just as guns are to knives. The point is that the mass killings still occur, with or without gun restrictions. Evil individuals find means to execute their plots, despite our best efforts. So the question then becomes: What are we giving up? If not prevention, the most we can hope to gain is slowing down the average citizen from obtaining a weapon – but what do we sacrifice in the process? The answer is our guarantee of a government by and for the people.
Much mockery has been made of the argument for self-defense against a tyrannical government. The reply usually states “The US military has tanks, attack helicopters, and nuclear weapons. We are the most technologically advanced army on earth. What chance does a man with a single semi-automatic stand?” A legitimate argument, assuming the US government (or any invading force) decides to send an attack helicopter or a nuclear weapon after a single individual.
As I recall, the US enjoyed technological superiority in Afghanistan and Vietnam, but has failed to accomplish its goals for the regions. To assume that America’s democracy is stable now beyond our founders’ comprehension and that we are therefore safe from this threat is also false, if not outright idiotic. The Roman Republic lasted 482 years before becoming the Roman Empire, and the monarchical structure against which our founders fought had existed since 1066, with only the brief interruption of the English Civil War and subsequent Commonwealth of England. They knew of great stability and consequently knew that when tyranny was not guarded against, regimes fall. The brash and asinine assumption that “This time it’s different!” is what has caused the failure of governments since the beginning of society itself. Incidentally, the common belief that the founders only meant to protect weapons which killed one individual at a time – and thus “This time it’s different” with regards to technology – is also flawed. The founders saw immense technological change during their lifetimes and would not have believed later generations would be limited to the abilities of their time any more than they were limited to the sword and spear of the ancients.
Thus, the tyrannical government may be faced with an armed population and will doubtless be more cautious in its actions. It is by the Second Amendment that our other rights are protected. My freedom of expression is protected from the government, ultimately not by a piece of paper, but by the gun that backs it. Washington and the revolutionaries didn’t use their freedom of speech to create the government; they used their individual weapons. Despite our best intentions, it will be those same civilian weapons which will ensure our nation’s security in the future.
Las Vegas was a tragedy and should be treated as such. The instant politicization of events as traumatic and saddening as what occurred there is a trend demanding reversal. But we must not let our grief blind us to political and social realities. We cannot fix the problem of mass killings and crime with something as simple as gun regulation, particularly given the cost of doing so. The freedoms which we hold so dear would evaporate with no backbone to sustain them, with untold consequences for the entire nation. Let us remember that in the coming days.
*Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that no gun-related deaths occurred in the incidents mentioned. This has been revised.