A liberal, pro-gun control senator from California just offered much-needed perspective on the Las Vegas Strip shooting. Gun-rights supporters couldn’t have said it better if they tried.
On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” John Dickerson interviewed U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a longtime gun control advocate. Feinstein authored the now-expired federal assault weapons ban.
“Could there have been any law passed that could have stopped it?” Dickerson asked about the shooting.
Feinstein’s exactly right, and it’s a point gun-rights advocates have been making for decades. Passing another law won’t stop people who’ve already decided to break existing ones.
There is merit in stricter regulations on bump stocks, as NRA has called for. The Vegas killer used those to increase his rate of fire. Bump stocks circumvent an existing federal ban on automatic weapons by using a semiautomatic rifle’s recoil to simulate automatic fire. But even a bump stock ban can’t prevent a determined criminal from obtaining them illegally. It’s likely just to create a black market.
The reaction to pass a law or for the government to do something — anything — is understandable after such a horrible act of evil. The murders shocked us and devastated so many in our hometown. Physical and emotional healing will take some months or even years.
It’d be great if there was one simple law or fix that could prevent another massacre. But Feinstein’s words remind us that there’s not.
This is especially important to remember because the shooting will put gun policy at the forefront of Nevada’s 2019 legislative session. Democrats, like state Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, are anticipating that the shooting will lead to a “broader conversation” about gun control. One that goes beyond banning bump stocks. Around the country, politicians have used previous shootings to push firearm restrictions that wouldn’t have changed or prevented those assaults.
Consider the aftermath of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a 20-year-old killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The murderer stole the guns from his mom, who had legally obtained them. He also killed her.
In response, then-President Barack Obama proposed a number of measures, including requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales. Background checks, however, would not have prevented the killer from obtaining weapons he stole. It would have made more sense to question the wisdom of making schools “gun free” zones. But point out inconvenient truths like that, and many on the left, like Hillary Clinton, will howl that you and the NRA are complicit in the killings.
Background checks failed in Congress, so gun control groups turned to individual states. In 2016, Nevada voters narrowly approved background checks for private party sales. Despite spending $20 million on the campaign, supporters did such a poor job writing the initiative that it’s unenforceable.
In the aftermath of the Vegas shooting, a headline from the Washington Post blared: “Gun-control advocates have come really close to making it harder to buy guns in Nevada.” The implication was obvious: That last week’s tragedy could have been limited or prevented except for those evil right wingers clinging to their guns.
How would private party background checks have stopped a shooter who passed background checks at gun stores? They wouldn’t have — just like Feinstein said.
Feinstein’s statement is worth recalling as politicians and the public evaluate future gun control proposals.
Keep the victims of this terrible crime in your prayers.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.