More than 59 people have been shot dead in Las Vegas, which has been described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. A gunman opened fire on an open-air concert from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
The US has one of the highest rates of gun homicide in the world, along with some of the laxest gun control laws.
A comparative analysis of gun control laws in other, similar, developed countries might help to put things into perspective.
On April 28, 1996, some 35 people, mostly tourists visiting the historic town of Port Arthur in Australia, were killed at the hands of a man armed with semi-automatic weapons.
Following the Port Arthur massacre, drastic gun law reforms were introduced in Australia which led to the ban on imports and sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
It has been more than two decades since rapid-fire long guns were banned in Australia. A handgun buyback program was also introduced in 2003.
Similarly in the UK, firearms are considered dangerous weapons under the law.
The British believe that it is the duty of the state to protect the public from the misuse of firearms.
Gun ownership in the UK is a privilege, not a right. Firearms control in the UK is among the toughest in the world.
Permission to possess or to purchase a gun has to be obtained from the licensing authority and the police.
There must be a good reason to own the firearm as well.
Persons who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three years or more cannot possess a firearm or ammunition (including antique firearms) at any time.
American lawmakers passed many laws on gun control including the Gun Control Act of 1968, National Firearms Act 1934, Gun-Free School Zones Act 1990, Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994–2004) etc.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that outright bans on civilian ownership of handguns are unconstitutional. A citizen’s right to bear arms is constitutionally protected in US.
Individual states also have their own rules with regards to gun laws. US citizens are permitted to carry weapons subject to some exceptions. There are certain prohibitions regarding concealing a weapon and certain places that are off limits.
After similar mass shootings, other countries have taken more dramatic steps to regulate gun ownership, and tougher gun laws have been central to these efforts
As of July 2017, the number of permits for concealed weapons in the US was 16.3 million. All the states have passed laws allowing qualified individuals to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from a government authority or local level.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is a law enforcement agency in the United States’ Department of Justice. It investigates federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms, explosives, acts of arson, and protects its citizens from the same. But permit revocations by the authorities are rare.
How to prevent future tragedies
After similar mass shootings, other countries have taken more dramatic steps to regulate gun ownership, and tougher gun laws have been central to these efforts.
The enactment of stricter laws led to a drastic drop in the rates of firearm-related homicide and suicides, demonstrating that tighter control does work.
The simple reality is, it is easier to kill more people with a gun than it is with a knife or axe or something else. The US government must take more dramatic steps to regulate gun ownership, purchase, use, and possession of firearms if it really wants to reduce the incidence of violent attacks.
The death tolls is still rising in Las Vegas. Such a cowardly attack on innocent and defenseless people is an unforgivable act. It reminds me of the famous Bob Dylan lyrics:
“Yes, how many ears must one man have,
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
While Democrats call for tougher gun-control reforms, Republicans call such efforts an infringement on the second amendment of the US constitution, which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
But too many innocent lives have been lost due to gun politics, and it’s time for America to address this issue immediately and reform gun control laws once and for all, even if it means changing the second amendment.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh and an activist.