Imagine for a moment what would have happened if, in his statement on the Las Vegas shooting, President Donald Trump had praised the police who ran toward the gunfire and saved so many lives, and then said: “And for all those who have been taking a knee to protest the police, shame on you. On Sunday, you slander them, but then on Monday, you need them. The police deserve our respect every day.”
Heads would have exploded – and rightly so. His critics would have pointed out that workers still had not removed all the bodies from the crime scene, and yet he was already injecting politics into this tragedy. The president’s job is to unite the country, they would have said, not divide us.
Of course, Trump did not say anything of the sort. His statement last Monday was moving and appropriate. The great irony is that it was Democrats who responded to the Las Vegas shooting like partisan hacks.
At 10:03 a.m. last Monday, while bodies were still lying where they fell and victims were in hospitals fighting for their lives, Hillary Clinton decided to go on the attack. “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get,” she tweeted. This was not only inappropriate, it was also inane. Her tweet had nothing to do with the events in Las Vegas. There is no such thing as a “silencer” like you see in a James Bond movie. There are “suppressors,” which reduce gunshot noise but do not eliminate it. Even if the shooter had used one in Las Vegas, The Post reported, the effect “probably would have been negligible.”
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Undeterred by ignorance, Clinton tweeted again a minute later, at 10:04 a.m., urging Americans to “put politics aside [and] stand up to the NRA.” Of course, she was doing the opposite of putting politics aside. And she was not alone Monday morning. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., criticized “my colleagues in Congress [who] are so afraid of the gun industry” and declared that “the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.” Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., tweeted, “More blood on hands of heartless NRA and soulless gun industry.”
The speed with which some on the left rushed to politicize this incident was pathetic but not surprising. After Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011, many on the left rushed to blame the tea party for inciting the attacker, only to learn later that the shooting had nothing to do with politics. By contrast, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who returned to work last week following an assassination attempt by a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter in June – set an example for all of us when he called on all Americans to respond to the Las Vegas attack “with countless acts of kindness, warmth and generosity.” He is absolutely right.
Should we have another debate about gun control? Sure. But not while bodies were still in the streets and we still did not know what weapons were used or how they were acquired.
We have since learned, for example, that the Las Vegas shooter may have used a “bump stock” to circumvent the 1986 near-banon automatic weapons and turn a regular rifle into a machine gun. Instead of (illegally) converting weapons to fire multiple rounds with a single pull on the trigger, bump stocks use the gun’s recoil to repeatedly “bump” the weapon back into the shooter’s trigger finger, creating an automatic effect. We ought to be able to find bipartisan agreement on banning such devices.
But such discrete solutions are not what most gun-control advocates are after. They want broad restrictions on gun ownership, like those in many European nations. Most of the proposed restrictions would not make us safer. In 2015, when Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued that none of the major shootings in recent years would have been prevented by new gun laws, The Post’s Fact Checker gave him a rare “Geppetto Checkmark.”
By contrast, there are many examples of armed civilians who have stopped mass shootings and saved lives. This year, a concealed-carry holder stopped a mass murder in Arlington, Texas, by killing a gunman who opened fire at a sports bar. Last year, just weeks after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, a gunman opened fire in a South Carolina nightclub and shot three people. Unlike at Pulse, this shooter was taken down by a concealed-carry holder before he could take more lives.
Moreover, France has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the world, yet that didn’t stop terrorists from getting AK-47s in 2015 and using them to kill 89 people at Paris’s Bataclan theater. And when mass killers can’t get guns, they find other ways to take innocent life. In Nice, France, last year, a terrorist used a truck to run over and kill 86 people and injure hundreds more.
People determined to kill other people will do it. Disarming law-abiding Americans won’t make us safer. And neither will politicizing a tragedy like the one we just experienced in Las Vegas.
Marc A. Thiessen writes a weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.