Three years after his son, Daniel, was murdered in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mark Barden said to “Entertainment Weekly,” “Thoughts and prayers and moments of silence are not enough.”
This is the mindset America should have when tackling the epidemic of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers do not prevent gun violence. Legislation does.
On the night of Sunday, Oct. 1, a lone gunman ascended to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and proceeded to open fire into a crowd of thousands of concertgoers below. In total, 59 people were killed with hundreds more injured. It was the worst mass shooting in modern United States history.
As of the publication date of this column, we do not know how the gunman acquired the weapons, which police say numbered around 23, all stashed in his hotel room. However, when examining Nevada’s gun laws, it is clear that legislation preventing him from purchasing those weapons legally is nonexistent.
If the shooter did acquire these weapons through illegal means, then he was wasting his time, because he could have purchased every single rifle by simply walking into his local gun store.
Currently, according to the NRA, there is no law in the state of Nevada requiring residents to have a permit or license when purchasing a handgun, rifle or shotgun. Gun owners are also not required to register their firearms with the state. Furthermore, open carry is allowed without a permit, and machine guns, as well as silencers, are legal as long as they are registered and meet federal regulations.
When it comes to background checks, the state legislature actually passed NRS 202.254 in 2016, requiring all private sales of guns to have a federally licensed dealer run a background check on the buyer. However, later that year, a legal opinion was published by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, stating the act was “unenforceable as criminal law.” This is because the FBI, who was in charge of conducting these background checks, wholly refused to do so. Consequently, background checks are not performed, rendering the law useless.
It would be easy to say Nevada should simply fix their laws concerning guns. However, many other states have similar legislation, including New Mexico. Both New Mexico and Nevada have an F ranking from the Brady Campaign, one of the leading anti-gun violence groups in the country. These rankings correlate with the high rate of gun deaths in both states (New Mexico and Nevada rank seventh and 14th respectively in this category, according to the CDC).
It is true that many factors contribute to high rates of gun violence. However, legislation that makes it easier for one to buy a gun certainly does not help.
Just like Nevada, New Mexico also does not require that gun buyers have a permit or license, nor are residents required to register their handguns, rifles or shotguns. It is also legal to purchase a registered machine gun that meets federal standards. Open carry of firearms is only restricted in federal buildings, college campuses and restaurants that serve alcohol (which, surprisingly, is not illegal in Nevada). Lastly, private sales of weapons do not require any background check of the buyer.
Other than these small restrictions, gun laws in Nevada and New Mexico are practically identical. This should be worrisome for every New Mexican, as well as residents in dozens of states with similar laws. No existing laws in the state can prevent a Las Vegas-sized tragedy from occurring here.
What does this lack of legislation look like in the real world? Just imagine walking into any federally licensed gun store and being able to buy a pistol, rifle or shotgun with little to no questions asked. As long as you have the money and you pass the background check, the gun is yours. No safety training, permits, licenses or registration required. Even if you have never touched a gun before, you can go into the store and buy as many as you please.
If the background check presents an issue for you, no worries. Just go online or to one of the dozens of gun shows that occur across the state every year, and hundreds of unlicensed dealers will sell you the gun of your choosing with no background check whatsoever. Therefore, there is little preventing anyone from assembling their own mini-arsenal and committing another terrible tragedy.
These awful mass shootings are always followed up with the reoccurring statement, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
When it comes to grieving, I believe thoughts and prayers really do help. To see these communities come together in the wake of terrible tragedy is nothing short of inspiring.
However, thoughts and prayers do absolutely nothing to prevent the next mass shooting from happening. They did not prevent Newtown. They did not prevent Orlando. And they certainly did not prevent the massacre that Las Vegas is still reeling from.
Las Vegas was the 273rd mass shooting out of 275 days this year. Either people are not praying hard enough, or prayers simply do not work. Instead, we need to channel that energy into passing legislation that keeps guns out of hands of people who should not have them. That is the only way.
Kyle Land is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.