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  National
Op-Ed Special
Not Again!
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
Las Vegas shooting in 2017

The latest mass shooting in the US has left 59 people dead, including the shooter, and 527 injured. It happened at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, during an open air Country Music Festival. This time, the shooter apparently didn’t fit the profile of a person capable of carrying out such an evil act. Alas, he apparently had the wherewithal to orchestrate the most deadly, gut-wrenching and violent rampage in modern history.

Most disturbing is the fact that Stephen Paddock must have made meticulous planning for such a horrific event; smuggling 23 firearms, along with accessories like scopes and bump stocks to boost their lethal effects into his hotel suite. His car, which was parked on the Mandalay Bay Hotel grounds, also had enough ammonium nitrate to make several bombs and unleash more carnage. According to Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the search of Paddock’s home in Mesguite, Nevada has yielded 19 more weapons, electronic devices chosen for nefarious purposes, explosives, ammunitions in the thousands, to unleashed sheer terror on his fellow citizens for no apparent reason. Talk about a lone wolf terrorist! Indeed, his atrocious actions and callous disregard for human life puts him in the same league with ISIS Jihadist.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Clark County Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo seems confident enough to conclude that Paddock supposedly carried out his dreadful deed alone. Evidently, the dark thoughts that inspired such raw terror also incited the mass murderer to use his hotel window as a vantage point, from which he could maximize the number of victims. This fact alone helps to validate the view that Paddock undoubtedly contemplated the morbid plot in his demented mind for days, possibly weeks, and perhaps months before carrying it out.

Certainly, it must have taken a lot of forethought to put such a diabolic plan into action. Obviously, the scheduled Country Music Festival was expected to attract a large crowd. And his 32nd floor window perch gave him an unobstructed view of the innocent victims below. Sadly, they had no idea their entertainment choice that fateful Sunday night made them easy targets.

Once again, the blood of innocents has been shed in such a heinous and senseless manner, for the momentary gratification of one psychopath. Once again, relatives and friends must utter the clichéd phrase oft repeated after another mass shooting. “We are sorry for your loss. Our hearts and prayers are with you during your time of grief.” Once again, heartbroken family members are forced to funeralize loved-ones who were cut down simply because one deranged killer used his Second Amendment right to deprive others of their “Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Once more, the nation weeps collectively for those victims’ families; while fellow citizens express sympathy and sorrow for the anguished souls aching for their daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and friends.

Most likely, the surviving members of the Pulse Nightclub (Orlando: June 12, 2016) shooting are still trying to cope with the sorrowful aftermath of that horrific tragedy. Hearing reports of a similar event will likely trigger the response, “Not again!” Haven’t we learned anything from previous tragedies like Virginia Tech (April 16h, 2007), Sandy Hook Elementary School (April 16, 2007), Killeen Texas (October 16, 1991), San Ysidro, California (July 18, 1984), and so many others?

How long will the American electorate continue to rationalize mass mayhem, and delude themselves into thinking that public safety must be sacrificed on the Second Amendment’s altar? How long will Americans dupe themselves into thinking that “Guns, don’t kill; only bad people with guns do?” Aside from the granule of truth in that statement, must we deny the fact that guns don’t load themselves, but deranged malcontents do? Must we also ignore the obvious fact that guns don’t plan nor carry out mass murders, maniacal psychos do? Shouldn’t reasonable and sensible people be able to find common ground on which to preserve Second Amendment rights while ensuring public safety?

Most societies regulate alcohol and drug use, household chemicals and poisons. Even conducts like public nakedness, covert peeping on neighbors, and jaywalking are restricted and subjected to fines. Yet, in the US, firearms are accorded such favorable exception, one would be forgiven for thinking firearms are immune to abuse and misuse. Why is that? Toy companies can be sued for making and marketing playthings that are considered choking hazard for children. Shouldn’t the gun industry be required to implement commonsense measures to ensure the safe use of their products? After all, the reason they are called deadly weapons is they can cause death, even with the slightest mishandling. Moreover, shouldn’t state lawmakers and federal legislators put public safety ahead of the firearms industry?

Arguments about gun owners’ legal right to utilize deadly force for self protection are actually diversionary tactics used to deflect the focus from the real issue—public safety. Back in the days when armed bandits of the Wild West often terrorized defenseless inhabitants of the open parries, owning a high powered pistol was a reasonable recourse. Nowadays, every municipality in the fifty states has a police force, a sheriff, swat teams, and a unit of the National Guards to help preserve public order. Hence, it’s hard to justify one man’s right to own 47 firearms, various explosive materials, several pounds of ammonium nitrate, and dozens of high capacity magazines with thousands of bullets solely for self-protection.

Judging from what we know so far about the latest mass shooter, he was not a licensed firearms distributor, retailer or trader. Knowing that, it’s hard to believe that the Second Amendment guarantees his right to own enough weapons and ammunitions to arm a military or police squad. Aside from a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment constitutional provision, why would any private citizen with no sworn enemy or pursuing outlaw need that cache of lethal hardware?

Like most gun owners, I respect the Second Amendment right to bear arms, acquire them for hunting and self protection. Indeed, "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." That is a sacred provision enshrined into the Amendments of the US Constitutional. However, the right to bear arms is only one of many constitutional provisions that need to be safeguarded. Indeed, the “unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…” for every law abiding citizens should not be infringed upon by those who recklessly flaunt their Second Amendment right, while putting at the unarmed innocents.

Since 1966, more than 500 people have been killed by mass shooters. Aside from the dead are multiple victims who have suffered traumatic and life-altering injuries. Many of them are left with physical and psychological scars, constant reminders of horrific events that never should have happened. Additionally, studies estimate that every day, up to 90 Americans die of gunshot wounds. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 275 people have already died at the hands of mass shooters in 2017. Some may quibble about the accuracy of such a figure. Nonetheless, even if a more conservative estimate is used, the total would still be a disturbing tally. Quite possibly, even funeral service providers would find that statistic disconcerting.

Knowing that, shouldn’t our government do more to safeguard the rights of those people too? Most Americans will not waste their sympathies on gang members, drug dealers or common criminals whose choice of occupation place them in the path of errant bullets. However, except for malevolent criminals, the victims of mass shootings deserve to have their “unalienable rights protected too.”

Licensed gun owners account for about 22 percent of the US population. Yet, so many lives are being adversely impacted by each mass shooting event. Consequently, the majority’s safety is at risk due to the impulsive and reckless conduct of a few unhinged gun owners. Naturally, even the most rigid set of regulations would not stop every incident of gun violence. Still, reasonable and sensible restrictions would reduce the number of villainous shooters, and minimize the number of victims.

Contrary to the claims of National Rifle Association (NRA), commonsense constraints on gun purchase and ownership is not a threat to the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. However, the random and wanton killing of unarmed citizens by unhinged gun owners is a threat to society at large. This is an issue that needs to be addressed! This is a problem that needs to be solved! This is the right that needs to be safeguarded by the courts, legislatures on the state and federal level. The time has come for the majority to stand up, speak up, and make their voices heard in state capitols, US Congress and Senate.

If the majority simply accepts the permissible laws that allow private citizens to randomly reenact the role of Rambo, and unleash cold-blooded carnage on the innocents, then, we may as well start the countdown to the next mass shooting in America that could very well surpass Las Vegas in mass casualty. Inaction will almost certainly make that prediction become a reality far sooner than we would like. However, purposeful, thoughtful and unrelenting activism is a sure way to affect changes that will ensure the public’s safety is not sacrificed on the Second Amendment altar. Then, we won’t have to say those sad words in response to another heart-stopping headline—“Not again!”


Editor’s Note

The writer currently teaches Communicative English at Hankyong National University. He has also authored a forthcoming book “A Few Choice Words.” He can be reached at cuforbes@gmail.com



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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at cuforbes@gmail.com

 

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