Activists and Lawmakers Call for Reform After Mass Shooting in Las Vegas

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on the Feminist Newswire.

On Sunday night, a gunman on the 32nd floor of the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Resort opened fire on a crowd of thousands of people attending the final night of a county music festival. As of Monday afternoon, at least 58 people are dead and over 500 are injured. Police report that the 64-year-old-gunman, Stephen Paddock, turned his weapon on himself before law enforcement could breach his hotel room. He had over 10 rifles with him.

Protestors at a rally against gun violence. (Maryland Gov / Creative Commons)

Video shows that the bullets were coming in continuous rapid fire for up to nine seconds at a time, before the shooter presumably took breaks to reload his weapon and began shooting again. One of the performers at the concert said the bullets were “nonstop” and added that it was like “shooting fish in a barrel.”

Public officials swarmed social media to condemn the violence, offer condolences to the people impacted and chart a path forward. Many charted that path by talking about common-sense gun law reform. “Don’t let anyone tell you it’s too soon to talk about our gun violence crisis,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand, said on Twitter. “For hundreds in Las Vegas, it’s too late.”

“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” Hillary Clinton added after tweeting her support for victims and first responders. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.” Today, if someone wants to buy a silencer, they face waiting times, a $200 transfer tax and a record of the purchase by federal law enforcement. But the so-called Hearing Protection Act being considered in Congress would get rid of all of those safeguards—and as early as this week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill to de-regulate gun silencers. Despite widespread opposition from police organizations and gun violence prevention groups, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has thrown their full support behind the bill. The NRA argues that silencers are necessary to protect hunters’ hearing, but law enforcement and military experts argue that there are already a number of effective hearing protection products on the market—and that gun silencers pose more harm than good.

This morning we all woke up to learn that in under an hour, one man in Nevada had systematically massacred over 50 people, wounded over 500, and inflicted what will surely be life-long trauma on thousands,” Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, told supporters today in an email. “We can’t just shrug our shoulders and exclaim that there is nothing we can do to make our country safer. We have to take action and demand #GunControlNow.” FM is urging supporters to oppose the de-regulation of gun silencers.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Congress to pass legislation closing background check loopholes and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers. She also called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to form a Select Committee on Gun Violence. “Congress has a moral duty to address this horrific and heartbreaking epidemic,” she said in a letter. “Charged with the solemn duty to protect and defend the American people, we must respond to these tragedies with courage, unity and decisive action.”

In 1994, Congress passed the federal Assault Weapons Ban, which successfully led to a decrease in total gun murders, and use of assault weapons in crimes declined by two-thirds over nine years. But the ban expired in 2004, and Congress has refused to reauthorize it despite the role assault weapons have played in multiple American mass shootings. The NRA has been very active in advocating against the assault weapons —and now, firearms like the one experts presume was used by the shooter in Las Vegas are not legal to purchase in the United States.

“We should all think deeply about the circumstances of this shooting,”Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said today in a statement, “and work together to stop such tragedies from happening again.” In January of 2013, on the heels of the Sandy Hook massacre, Feinstein introduced a renewal of the ban. It was defeated that April.

The NRA is an interest group widely considered to be an advocate for the gun manufacturing industry, and contributes significant funding to political campaigns. They were the single largest donor group to President Trump’s campaign. In July, the Feminist Majority Foundation joined the Women’s March and several other organizations in a 17-mile, two-day rally to protest the NRA’s promotion of violence against progressive activists—especially women and people of color—as well as the lack of action the NRA took in response to the shooting death of Philando Castile.

The Feminist Newswire has provided a daily feminist perspective on national, global and campus news stories since 1995. Subscribe to the weekly feminist news digest here.

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