Why? When? What?

Published: October 6, 2017

By Jim Lichtman
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After watching events unfold in Las Vegas last Sunday – now the largest mass shooting in U.S. history – I went to my archives to see how many commentaries I’d written about gun control.

It’s an issue I have revisited several times, maybe eight or ten. I was surprised to discover twenty-three! (Twenty-four, counting this piece.)

When I first heard that the shooting took place at an outdoor concert event, my first thought was that this was another Paris-style attack on civilians by ISIS. Wrong.

The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was a 64-year-old, white, male, retired accountant, and… American citizen with, as of this writing, no history of mental illness and no evidence that he had any connections to any radical or terrorist organization.

At this point, I moved on, focusing on the victims and the many heroes who reacted to what is now becoming far too routine, until I read a commentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman.

“If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim,” Freidman writes, “… If only he had shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ before he opened fire on all those concertgoers in Las Vegas … If only he had been a member of ISIS … If only we had a picture of him posing with a Quran in one hand and his semiautomatic rifle in another …

“Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11. Then Donald Trump would be tweeting every hour ‘I told you so,’ as he does minutes after every terror attack in Europe, precisely to immediately politicize them. Then there would be immediate calls for a commission of inquiry to see what new laws we need to put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Then we’d be ‘weighing all options’ against the country of origin.

“But what happens,” Friedman asks, “when the country of origin is us?

“So let’s review: we will turn the world upside down to track down the last Islamic State fighter in Syria — deploying B-52s, cruise missiles, F-15s, F-22s, F-35s and U-2s. We will ask our best young men and women to make the ultimate sacrifice to kill or capture every last terrorist. And how many Americans has the Islamic State killed in the Middle East? I forget. Is it 15 or 20? And our president never stops telling us that when it comes to ISIS, defeat is not an option, mercy is not on the menu, and he is so tough he even has a defense secretary nicknamed ‘Mad Dog.’

“But when fighting the N.R.A. — the National Rifle Association, which more than any other group has prevented the imposition of common-sense gun-control laws — victory is not an option, moderation is not on the menu and the president and the G.O.P. have no mad dogs, only pussycats.

“And they will not ask themselves to make even the smallest sacrifice — one that might risk their seats in Congress — to stand up for legislation that might make it just a little harder for an American to stockpile an arsenal like Paddock did, including 42 guns, some of them assault rifles — 23 in his hotel room and 19 at his home — as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and some ‘electronic devices.’ Just another deer hunter, I guess.

“On crushing ISIS, our president and his party are all in. On asking the N.R.A. for even the tiniest moderation, they are AWOL. No matter how many innocents are fatally shot — no matter even that one of their own congressional leaders was critically wounded playing baseball — it’s never time to discuss any serious policy measures to mitigate gun violence.”

In the space of EIGHT days, we have gone from Congressional Republicans AND Democrats standing UNITED behind their colleague, Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise who — if he had not been part of House leadership requiring that Capitol Police be on the baseball field where he was when he got shot — would have witnessed many more of his brethren killed.

All House members give a standing ovation – deservedly so – to this man who survived a horrific attack by another crazed gunman, out hunting for Republicans this time.

After the Las Vegas attack, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there.”

Politifact rated Sanders’s claim as Pants-on-Fire false! Just one of many pieces of false information coming out of the White House and from politicians who continue to view mass shootings as just another cost-benefit for “protecting” our Second Amendment rights.

On the same day that Sanders spoke, Wisconsin Democrat Chris Abele said in a tweet:

“Americans have overwhelmingly supported common sense gun reform. 90% support universal background checks.”

Politifact rated Abele’s statement: True.

In 2015, after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered that diesel Volkswagens and Audis ran hidden software that allowed their cars to cheat on U.S. federal emissions tests, the company agreed to a multi-billion-dollar settlement and fix the software.

After every plane crash, every plane crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates to determine the cause and govern what needs to be fixed.

After Las Vegas?

Well, a lot of hand-wringing, talk about banning “bump stocks,” but will any meaningful legislation go anywhere?

“Well,” the argument goes, “it’s MY right to blah, blah, blah.

Here’s the simple reality that the NRA continues to ignore:



But Congress can better regulate what can be owned and by whom.

Will they? Of course not.

And yet, we continue to watch more mass shootings, more moments of silence, more candle-lit vigils, and endure the same lack of action taken by those responsible in Washington.

Why do we continue to allow this to happen?

When will Congress grow a backbone and take action on commonsense gun legislation?

And what do we say to the dead when they don’t?


  1. So so sad. Join me in connecting with the angry, isolated and disenfranchised. Affordable mental health and gun control TODAY. Thanks Jim.

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