The casualty count in the massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday is difficult to put into any kind of relatable context. Fifty-nine dead, at least, and 520 injured, all thanks to one man. Most wartime skirmishes are less deadly.
The helpless victims' fates were sealed by the high-powered, rapid-fire guns and the massive amounts of ammunition the shooter was allowed to purchase legally, and then fire into the panicked crowd at the rate of nine bullets per second.
That same man, armed with a single-shot rifle, a pistol, a knife, or even a moving van, could not have single-handedly produced as much death and injury. So effective was he that he alone killed more people than four Islamic suicide bombers in London, England, were together able to on July 7, 2005, when 52 died. He even wounded a comparable number: 520 versus the bombers' 700.
But the casualty count has nothing to do with the weapons that were available to the killer, at least not according to the President of the United States, the National Rifle Association and the many politicians who reside so firmly in the pockets of the NRA that they ought to pay some kind of property tax related to it.
The real culprit was "pure evil," in this case committed by a "sick and demented" individual, according to President Donald Trump, who is an adamant supporter of the NRA, and in return was a recipient of $21-million (U.S.) in donations and beneficial advertising campaigns from the lobby group during the 2016 election campaign, according to NBC News.
In other words, Mr. Trump is saying, this is not the sort of thing that can be legislated against. Evil happens, in spite of the best efforts of good people and well-intentioned politicians.
Plus, people are suffering. The gun lobbyists and their politicians tell us this is not the moment to talk about tightening gun controls, but for "thoughts and prayers" – as if that could prevent another mass shooting in America, defined as a shooting in which four or more people are killed or injured, and of which there has been almost exactly one per day in 2017.
Everyone knows these positions are utter bunk. Most likely, Mr. Trump and the NRA know it, too. But their personal interests lie elsewhere. They do not want to admit that the death toll could come down if rapid-fire weapons were banned, if better background checks were required, if there were limits on the size of the magazines that hold the bullets, if gun shows were not free-for-all markets that make it possible even for the most deranged person to get his hands on a weapon.
If only there were a different kind of deadly and random attack that could be used to demonstrate to Mr. Trump that governments can take measures to protect their citizens from pure evil. Oh wait – the U.S. is a warrior in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. So is almost every other country, including Canada.
All have identified best practices for diminishing the chance that a terrorist or lone-wolf actor can harm domestic targets. They include immigration controls, rigorous background checks, intelligence work, intelligence sharing, and dogged policing. The Trump administration has even twice attempted to ban some Muslims from entering the U.S., a violation of the same Constitution that protects gun ownership.
Many countries, like Canada, have additionally benefited from strict gun controls, thereby limiting the options and effectiveness of lone attackers. Has it been perfect? No. The attack in Edmonton on Saturday was a reminder we can never be fully immune.
But Canada has nonetheless accepted that terrorism is a real threat, and has taken successful steps to limit it. It makes sense. It's the right thing to do. The wrong thing to do would be to throw up our hands and say, Evil exists, so there's nothing we can do.
It is telling that Mr. Trump and his allies carefully refuse to refer to most mass killings of U.S. citizens by domestic wackos as "terrorism." They argue, correctly, that random killers aren't motivated by religious or political beliefs, and aren't trying to coerce anyone.
But surely they realize that the ability of lone killers to murder disproportionate numbers of Americans is entirely due to a political ideology that is based on quasi-religious beliefs about the sanctity of the Second Amendment.
The people who carry out mass killings in America may not have political motivations, but their ability to be so effective is the direct result of the politics of Mr. Trump and the NRA.
It matters not a whit to the gun lobby that, from the 9/11 tragedy of 2001 on, for every American killed by a terrorist there have been 1,000 killed by domestic gun violence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Killers like the one in Las Vegas are the unwitting lone wolves of a political movement that has lost all sense of common decency, and which has become the most persistent threat to the safety of Americans today.