I’m appalled at how easy it was for Stephen Paddock to kill so many people in Las Vegas. He gathered a bunch of weapons in his hotel room, broke two windows, and, later, as if he were at a shooting range, began to fire at the 22,000 people who were attending an outdoor concert. Killing is so easy in the United States.
There is no dispute that in this country, there is a dangerous obsession with machines that can kill you. In the United States, there are more guns than citizens, and that’s why it’s so easy to kill; there are 112 firearms for every 100 people, according to a quick glance at Wikipedia. The argument is very simple: The more pistols and rifles that exist, the easier it is to use them to kill. But this logic has never been able to convince the U.S. Congress. Massacre after massacre, members of Congress refuse to do anything about it. There is too much money to be made.
Let’s look at an example. In 2015, 13,500 people were killed by firearms in the United States. In that same year, only one person was killed the same way in Japan. One! Why such a big difference? Because in Japan, it is very difficult to obtain a firearm. Killing there is difficult; less than one out of every 100 people owns a firearm.
A BBC report lists everything a Japanese citizen must do to buy a handgun: take a multiple day class, pass an exam, get at least 95 percent on a shooting test, pass a criminal record check and a check into possible contact with terrorists, and pass a family and colleague screening. The permit is only good for three years and then citizens must repeat the process. Japan has demonstrated that the number of murders can be drastically reduced if we complicate and limit access to firearms.
Why can’t the United States do something similar? It’s a perfect way to respect the Second Amendment – which guarantees the right to carry – and, at the same time, protect the life of all those who live in the country.* But this balance is broken.
The massacres have become an almost daily occurrence. After the 2012 killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I believed, incorrectly, that things would change. But nothing happened. After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year, where 49 people died, I thought there would be a national movement to limit gun use. Nothing happened. And now, nothing will happen after the shooting in Las Vegas – the worst in U.S. history. In the courtyard at the entrance to a United Nations building in New York, there is an extraordinary sculpture, a gift from the government of Luxemburg in 1988. It is an enormous pistol whose barrel ends in a knot. For me, it signifies the desire to control violence.
But I don’t see any sign of this desire in the United States. This country refuses to learn the simplest and most obvious lesson: Fewer guns mean fewer murders. The government of Donald Trump – from which nothing good has come in his first months in the White House – will never take on the battle to limit firearms. Nonetheless, the act of domestic terrorism in Las Vegas goes against his narrative that immigrants are the true danger to this country.
I remain appalled at how easily Paddock killed his victims and at the absolute refusal by Trump and the political class to do something to avoid another massacre. It’s too easy to kill here.
*Editor’s note: The Second Amendment provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”