After the horrific massacre in Las Vegas, Americans are likely to be less free and feel less safe in public spaces. It’s tragic.
In the days ahead, we’ll learn more about the killer, Stephen Paddock. We may learn how he assembled his murderous arsenal. Perhaps we’ll know why he decided to slaughter more than 50 people and wound hundreds more.
But we can say today with certainty that once Paddock began firing his weapons, there was little anyone could do. He apparently occupied a darkened position, high above the concert grounds, some 600 yards from his targets. Experts said he possessed weapons that discharged 10 rounds per second.
No good guy with a gun could have stopped the shooting. The Las Vegas concert was the softest of targets, a mass gathering of innocent music fans helpless against the rain of bullets from above.
As we know, America and its elected representatives have decided Paddock and people like him are entitled to purchase all the guns they can get. Until that changes, the only way to ensure the public’s safety will be to curtail or lock down large gatherings in open spaces — concerts, sporting events, street fairs, carnivals and the like.
Defenders of gun rights will undoubtedly resist that conclusion. But now who will think it’s a good idea to hold a massive victory parade downtown? Or a huge art fair? How can any large gathering in a public space be fully protected?
They can’t. Slowly, such events could fade away — victims of the intransigence of the gun owners’ lobby, which argues the Second Amendment is the only freedom that matters.
This isn’t alarmist. Metal detectors are now everywhere. You can’t get into City Hall, or onto an airplane, or into a concert, without passing through one. Fifty years ago, Americans would have been outraged at such intrusions into their freedom of travel and association; today, they’re an accepted fact of life.
Sadly, as freedoms dwindle, few are likely to object. Outdoor events could become less common. The ones that remain might resemble armed camps, with snipers posted around the perimeter, just in case.
The gun lobby will tell you it’s a small price to pay for freedom. That freedom is theirs, of course, not yours.
No one should be asked to give up the ability to walk down a street or see a show, free of fear.
Step by step, gun activists steal that right from all of us. There were two such thefts this weekend, one in Lawrence and one in Las Vegas.