On Sunday night, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history claimed at least 50 lives in Las Vegas.
A man who has now been identified as Stephen C. Paddock opened fire on a crowd of thousands of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival with a series of fully automatic weapons, firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
More than 200 people were injured, but the total of dead and wounded is sure to rise as the story unfolds. Paddock was killed, likely by his own hand, when police breached the hotel room he was firing from.
On Monday morning, Donald Trump tweeted condolences for the victims of the attack and, for some reason, did not declare the incident an act of terror:
My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2017
As Sheriff Joe Lombardo recounts in the press conference below, police found numerous weapons in Paddock’s hotel room, and while more facts will emerge as the investigation continues, we do know that gun laws in Nevada are among the weakest in the nation. The state allows open carry of both long guns and handguns, and there are no restrictions on the purchase of machine guns, which are subject to the federal National Firearms Act (NFA).
And even if the city of Las Vegas had wanted to, it could not legally have enacted a single gun control measure because the state of Nevada pre-empts any local or municipal gun laws with state law. The National Rifle Association has successfully managed to implement such pre-emption laws in 42 states.
Nevada’s lax gun laws have made it the number three state for ownership of machine guns and other NFA-restricted weapons, and the number nine exporter of crime guns. And just let this sink in again: Las Vegas could not have enacted restrictions on the carrying of firearms even if it had wanted to.
Even if Paddock had walked into that hotel with half-a-dozen rifles slung over his shoulders, the worst any police officer could have done would have been to ask to see his NFA license, if they had been able to identify the weapons on sight as fully automatic. If the hotel had a no firearms policy, they could have asked him to leave.
Even given all of that, Nevada still only ranks 10th on the Brady Campaign’s list of worst states for gun laws.
We’ve had these conversations after every gigantic mass shootings (less so after the frequent mass shootings we’ve become used to), but this time really could be different. It’s a safe bet that many of the victims of this shooting come from other states, and Las Vegas will be under tremendous pressure to make visitors feel safe again — if that’s even possible.
The city’s status as an international tourist destination vividly illustrates that weak gun laws anywhere equal danger everywhere.
Watch Sheriff Lombardo’s press conference below.