The gun lobby will say that this isn’t a time for politics. But if we can’t learn the lesson from this carnage, then there will be more such shootings — again and again. This is a particularly American tragedy and completely unnecessary.
After the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, the impulse of politicians will be to lower flags, offer moments of silence and lead a national mourning. Yet what we need most of all isn’t mourning, but action to lower the toll of guns in America.
We don’t need to simply acquiesce to this kind of slaughter. When Australia suffered a mass shooting in 1996, the country united behind tougher laws on firearms. As a result, the gun homicide rate was almost halved, and the gun suicide rate dropped by half, according to the Journal of Public Health Policy.
Skeptics will say that there are no magic wands and that laws can’t make the carnage go away. To some extent, they’re right. Some criminals will always be able to obtain guns, especially in a country like America that is awash with 300 million firearms. We are always likely to have higher gun death rates than Europe.
But the scale is staggering. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American history, back to the American Revolution. Every day, some 92 Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries, according to David Hemenway of Harvard.
So while there’s no magic wand available, here are some steps we could take that would, collectively, make a difference:
1. Impose universal background checks for anyone buying a gun. Four out of five Americans support this measure to prevent criminals or terrorists from obtaining guns.
2. Impose a minimum age limit of 21 on gun purchases. This is already the law for handgun purchases in many…