The deadly mass shooting in Vegas on Sunday night has caused bloodshed and shocked the city of global tourist destiny in the core. Armed to the teeth, a lone gunman was able to bring a stockpile of over 20 firearms, including automatic weapons, into the 32th floor of Mandalay Bay hotel, a four-star hotel in a busy tourist destination. The incident has renewed heated debate over American gun control law, and put American gun culture under the global spotlight. Nevada the state that Vegas is in, has long had the most relaxed gun laws in the country.
It's legal to openly carry a gun almost anywhere in Nevada, except for some public buildings such as airports and schools. Concealed carry permits will be issued to most applicants who pass basic background checks. This gun culture was so prevalent that in my last year’s visit to Vegas, a friend of mine from the state showed me a handgun that he had legally possessed for years. Holding that gun in my hand at the time, at a hotel that was only a few miles away from Mandalay, I never expected such devastating tragedy will happen nearby at such scale and velocity a year later, with several victims being Canadians visiting the city just like me.
While the image of me holding the handgun in Vegas hotel has repeatedly appeared in my mind after the mass shooting, it paled in comparison with the memories of the gun violence that I witnessed at Concordia University in Montreal when I came to Canadian as a Visa student in the 1990s. On a hot summer afternoon in Aug. 1992, an associate professor at the department of computer engineer who was denied tenure carried three guns and ammunition in his briefcase and went on a shooting rampage on my floor, killing four of his colleagues and wounding a staff member.
While the incident has haunted many us students at the time, its devastating impact on the family members and their loved ones were beyond description. Who could possibly expect that the three professors would not make home from work on a beautiful afternoon in such a great and peaceful country, Canada?
The Sunday night massacre has left Vegas reeling, and will forever cast a dark shadow on the lives of the victims’ families and loved ones, many of whom are living in the nightmare and struggling to process the tragedy. With access to fully automatic weapons, the shooter randomly killed 59 and wounded 500, creating the worst and the most horrific massacre in modern North American history, with impact far more severe and widespread than any one happened in the past.
When it came to gun crimes, the US is the most violent among the developed nations. Firearm access is also the easiest in America, and US is one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. As a result, America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany. With only 4.4 percent of the world’s population, the country has almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world.
Police said they recovered a total of 42 weapons belonging to Mr. Paddock, the Vegas shooter, including 23 from the hotel room and 19 at his home. Some were automatic weapons or semi-automatic rifles illegally modified into fully-automatic weapons. With a fully automatic weapon, one trigger pull can unleash continuous rounds until the magazine is empty.
Undoubtedly, the handgun that I had a chance to hold in that Vegas hotel room was nowhere close to the automatic firearms used by the gunman in killing power. But it is this widespread gun culture that has fueled mass shooting incidents in the US one after another, from Newtown Conn in 2012 to Orlando Florida in 2016 to Vegas Nevada on Sunday night.
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