Las Vegas now adds to its world-famous reputation by being the location of the largest mass murder by a private citizen in American history. That is very sad, but what may be even sadder is that I fear it won't hold that title for long.
If nothing changes, there surely will be another, even more horrific and more deadly. As comedian Irwin Corey quipped, "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going."
So, where does the trend say we are going? How do we change direction? What can we do?
Some will say there is nothing we can do because of the Second Amendment. Others will say we need to severely restrict the ability for private citizens to own any kind of firearm. Both extremes are unreasonable, in my opinion.
But there is something we should start pursuing. I am advocating a two-pronged approach.
One is to limit the availability of weapons of mass destruction, including severely restricting the private ownership of rifles with high-capacity magazines while outlawing the manufacture and sale of magazines holding more than six rounds and make the manufacture and sale of devices capable of converting firearms to fully automatic.
I believe this can be crafted to pass Second Amendment scrutiny. The courts have already held that government may prohibit the private ownership of other types of "arms" such as bombs, hand grenades etc.. and the Second Amendment doesn't specify what it means by "Arms."
In 1791, it probably meant knives, swords, and single-shot muzzle loaders. Civil Libertarians on the right and the NRA will decry this approach. I realize that one could kill people with handguns, shotguns, and six-round capacity rifles and I do not blame the weapons for the perpetrator's act. I do blame the type of weapon on the shooter's ability to take out nearly 600 innocent people in minutes from several hundred yards away.
The second prong is, perhaps, just as controversial. That is the reform of our mental health laws with regard to involuntary treatment of dangerous persons and more and better funded and more accessible community based mental health services. Civil libertarians on the left and the ACLU will decry this approach.
Congressman Thompson is on the right track with a call for a joint, bi-partisan, Congressional committee to look at what can be done. I urge them to include in the discussion my recommendation and call as witnesses experts from law enforcement, mental health, NRA, ACLU, and other stakeholders.
You can write Mike Thompson or send in your own letter to the editor and express your support of his leadership in this critical public safety issue.We have to change direction now and do what we can to mitigate the death toll.