3 Oct 2017

America's grim history of mass shootings

1:12 pm on 3 October 2017

The worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in US history in Las Vegas last night highlights America's grim history of gun violence.

At least 59 have people died and more than 525 were wounded when gunman Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire from his 32nd floor hotel room window at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

His indiscriminate targets were audience members at a country and western concert below his hotel room.

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Photo: AFP

Until now the worst shootings were the nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida where Omar Mateen killed 49 people.

Before that was the killing at the Virginia Tech University in 2007 when 32 people were killed.

And in terms of shock, Sandy Hook in December 2012 when 25 six and seven year olds were killed at their elementary school in Connecticut - an act of brutality so shocking it moved the then president Barack Obama to tears.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JUNE 12: Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The suspected shooter, Omar Mateen, was shot and killed by police.

Police outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida after a fatal shooting in June 2016. Photo: AFP

The state of Nevada has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the US - gun owners do not have to register their weapons, and there are no limits on how many they can keep.

Today the two senators from Connecticut sought to reopen the age-old debate on gun control.

Chris Murphy said it was "positively infuriating" his colleagues in Congress were so afraid of the gun industry.

"It's time for Congress to get off its ass and do something," he wrote.

His fellow Congressman Richard Blementahl tweeted:

This will be the first time the President Donald Trump has come face-to-face with the bitter debate on America's gun ownership.

Some 30,000 Americans die each year of gunshot wounds, some accidental, many suicide but a large number are homicides.

Mourners gather at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Mourners gather at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Photo: AFP

However, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been successful in warding off moves to tighten gun ownership laws and in President Trump they have a true friend.

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and gun-rights advocates staunchly defend that provision. President Trump has been outspoken about his support of the Second Amendment.

House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, on Monday called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence.

"Congress has a moral duty to address this horrific and heartbreaking epidemic," Ms Pelosi wrote.

In his address to the nation President Trump said the American public would be seeking explanations, but the one issue he did not touch upon was whether gun control could have played a part.

There were more than 10 rifles in the room where Paddock killed himself. His arsenal included multiple machine guns, according to a law enforcement official. US law largely bans machine guns.

Police found several more weapons at Paddock's home in Mesquite, about 145 km northeast of Las Vegas, Mesquite police spokesman Quinn Averett told reporters.

The shooting sparked an outcry from some US lawmakers about the pervasiveness of guns in the United States, but was unlikely to prompt action in Congress.

Efforts to pass federal laws on guns failed following the mass shootings in Virginia, Connecticut, and Florida.

- RNZ / Reuters / BBC

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