In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, there's a lot of talk in Washington about not politicizing this horror. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, had purchased and carried at least 18 concealed weapons into his hotel room. No matter. The idea was let's not raise the matter of the permissiveness of the country's gun laws.
It's understandable why Republican lawmakers wouldn't want the slaughter politicized. They have their history on the issue of gun non-control and they have their current legislative priorities. One of them, a big one, is to make it easier for gun owners to purchase silencers. Why, one might ask, is it necessary to be silent while shooting something or someone? The National Rifle Association says it's not about that. Getting silencers on more guns in America is about health protection for the ears. Therefore the Hearing Protection Act is a necessity. Given the estimated 300 million firearms in the hands of Americans, there is a huge market to be tapped.
Don't expect, as unbelievable as it sounds, shootings such as this one in Las Vegas – coming on top of the shooting of a congressman playing baseball and the Orlando nightclub mass killing – to derail this campaign on behalf of gun owners and others. Another is a push, despite the Sandy Hook massacre of children in 2012, for more guns in schools. One of Donald Trump's campaign promises was to eliminate gun-free school zones. Representative Tom Massie of Kentucky introduced what he called the "Safe Students Act," an NRA-backed bill to repeal the 1990 ban on guns in school.
At an NRA convention last spring, speakers warned, as these types always do, of civilians being unable to protect themselves without guns in their pockets or purses. One speaker, author David Grossman, a retired professor at West Point, went so far as to claim that the United States was raising an "assassination generation" programmed by violent video games and movies. But he was still in favour of allowing more guns in schools in support of self-defence.
Hillary Clinton was the most pro-gun-control presidential candidate in American history. Her tweets on Monday reminded Americans of that fact and the reasons behind it.
Donald Trump, who made a nice statement of unity from the White House on what is the worst mass shooting in the country's history, never used to be on the side of the gun lobby. But you can't be a viable candidate for the Republican nomination without doing so. So he turned the corner and became a strident proponent of Second Amendment rights.
"You came through for me," he told the NRA, "and I am going to come through for you." He has compared himself favourably with Ms. Clinton on this issue frequently as President and will continue to do so, no matter how many fall as a result of gun violence.
There has been some encouraging news. In the first six months of the Trump presidency, U.S. gun sales fell about 10 per cent. There's a perverse psychology at work here: Lawmakers who threaten a gun clampdown are good for sales. The thinking is, buy before it happens. Opponents of gun control such as Mr. Trump have the opposite impact.
Mr. Trump certainly was not about to raise the gun issue on Monday. But there was some well-articulated reaction, making the very point that, yes, this should be politicized for the obvious reason. The lawmakers make the gun laws. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, said this: "It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren't public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It's time for Congress to get off its ass and do something."
Indeed it is. But it is not going to happen, No matter how many of these slaughters take place, no matter if it's the worst one ever.