Maybe this time will be different. Maybe the sheer number of people killed and injured at a country music festival in Las Vegas - at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history - will finally lead to some common sense restrictions on guns.
Because the age and innocence of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-graders held up their hands to try to shield themselves from the gunfire in their classroom five years ago, didn’t make a difference.
Because the transformation of the bucolic Virginia Tech campus into a killing field for 32 promising young people and their professors 10 years ago didn’t make a difference.
Because the 12 people slaughtered in the darkness of an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater five years ago didn’t make a difference.
Because the nine people gunned down by a white supremacist during a Bible study at a Charleston, South Carolina, church two years ago didn’t make a difference.
Because a Republican lawmaker being shot during a congressional baseball practice in June (Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was able to return to work only last week) didn’t make a difference.
President Donald Trump didn’t talk about the real American carnage at his inauguration, which happens before our eyes every day. This year alone, more than 11,700 people have been killed by gunfire. As my colleague John Woodrow Cox reported last month, almost two dozen children are shot every day in the United States.
But those with the power to stop the killing have no interest in doing so.
“I will never, ever infringe on the right of people to keep and bear arms,” our president vowed in a speech to the National Rifle Association at its national conference this year.
The NRA spent three times as much on political ads for Trump as it did for Mitt Romney in 2012, according to a Washington Post analysis. The president couldn’t wait to thank the NRA, assuring its members that “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”
Let’s be clear on what those “assaults” have been.
More than 100 gun control proposals have been introduced in Congress since then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., took a bullet to the head while meeting constituents outside a Tucson grocery store in 2011.
And no, none of them infringed on the right of responsible gun owners to keep and bear arms.
This is what those so-called assaults have been:
- Keeping folks on the terrorist watch list from getting guns.
- Asking dealers at gun shows to observe the same legal requirements for background checks that all licensed dealers abide by.
- Banning the manufacture and sale of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition, hardware designed for no other purpose than to kill people outside a grocery store, massacre Batman fans in a movie theater or rip apart the bodies of first-graders in a classroom.
It’s too easy in this divisive, political climate to simplify any attempts to save thousands of lives as “assaults.” Any politician who wants to consider curbing about 25,000 gunfire injuries is called a “gun grabber” and is misrepresented and vilified by the highly researched attacks and misconstrued fears that the NRA manufactures.
Every time, the gun rights advocates shift the blame for these breathtaking displays of violence. It’s mental illness, they’ll say. It’s domestic violence. It’s racism. It’s allegiance to the Islamic State. It’s simple evil.
“It was an act of pure evil,” Trump said Monday morning, announcing plans to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. He made no mention of shooter Stephen Paddock’s weaponry.
Yet there is only one thing these mass shootings all have in common: guns.
Not only has Congress done nothing about the gun deaths of about 13,000 Americans every year, but two guys with A ratings from the NRA - Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Rep. John Carter, R-Texas - introduced something this year to make killing even easier. They call it the Hearing Protection Act, because they want you to believe gun silencers only function to protect a shooter’s snowflake ears. Their bill is in no way designed to help weapons manufacturers sell more stuff, even though gun sales have gone down since President Barack Obama left office.
Meanwhile, the shootings are getting deadlier, with the number of victims increasing - in some cases doubling - over the years.
Why? Are gunmen getting crazier, more abusive, more racist, more radicalized?
Or is the access to guns designed for war getting easier?
Paddock would not have been able to kill 59 people with a knife.
Gun rights advocates will argue that a third of the gunmen in mass shootings shouldn’t have had weapons under existing regulations. And that’s true. But what about the other two-thirds? Shouldn’t we make it harder for them to destroy lives? To turn a country music festival into a shooting range?
At this point, Americans should have had enough. It’s time for our lawmakers and our president to stop listening to the NRA and start listening to us. It’s time for common sense - not manufactured fear - to make a difference.
Petula Dvorak is a Washington Post columnist.