I’m a gun owner. I have always been a suppporter of 2nd Amendment rights. Though it shames me to say it now, I was once a member of the NRA. I finally wised up to their act and shed myself of any association with the Association. But I have always been skeptical of gun control. It’s not that I think people should have the right to have any type of gun they want–nobody needs fully automatic weapons–nobody needs a bazooka or a tank. It’s just that I have never thought that gun laws can really work in this country. When it comes to guns, America is different. We already have somewhere around 300 million guns out there–nobody really knows how many–more on that later. I’ve just never been one who is able to see any way of keeping guns out of the hands of people who want to get them. Fact is, I still don’t. But after the hellish scenes and sounds from Las Vegas that I’ve been witness to on my news feeds, I’m broken. I can no longer, in good conscience, sit by and watch. Even though I fear that it’s, in the end, a potentially futile effort, I am finally to the point where I believe making no effort isn’t going to cut it anymore.
In watching the horrible story in Vegas unfold, I have learned something that I didn’t know. A news story about the difficulty in tracking the history of the guns found in the Mandalay Bay hotel room has opened my eyes. I assumed, as probably most Americans do, that tracing where a firearm comes from is as easy as typing a serial number into a computer data base. I was completely ignorant of the fact that no such computer data base exists–that, in fact, a federal law forbids such information to be stored in a searchable electronic data base. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that. All the gun records in our nation are actually stored in one place in a small town in the panhandle of West Virginia. I’m not making this up. Our national gun database consists of millions upon millions of pieces of paper stored in thousands upon thousands of boxes in a facility run by one man, an ATF agent named Charlie Houser. You can read much more about Charlie and his facility in this article. So, because of this insane law–pushed through by the immense power of the NRA lobby back in 1986–in order to track the history of those guns found in the Vegas shooter’s hotel room, someone is going to have to go to West Viginia and dig through Charlie Houser’s boxes.
Another thing I learned in the wake of the senseless slaughter in Las Vegas is just how easy it is to get around the ban on fully automatic weapons. Anyone who has heard the horrifying rapid fire tat tat tat tat raining down from that Vegas hotel should instantly feel a sickness in the pit of their stomach. Those are the sounds of a war zone. No civilian citizen needs that kind of rapid fire weaponry–I don’t care how fun they are to shoot. So how is it so easy for someone to get their hands on such weapons? It is possible to make them yourself. You can take a perfectly legal semiautomatic rifle and modify it. It’s illegal to do it, but the fact that it’s even possible is extremely troublesome.
I am still a 2nd Amendment guy, but enough is enough. Even if real gun control is ultimately unlikely to keep sick people from being able to obtain what they want, I am no longer going to use that as an excuse to do nothing. There are simple measures we can take right now that can at least put us on the road to some sanity.