Stop the violence

10/6/2017, 11:56 a.m.

Blacksburg, Va. 

Newtown, Conn. 

Aurora, Colo. 

Charleston, S.C.

San Bernardino, Calif.

Orlando, Fla.

Add to this list Las Vegas, which now has the infamous distinction of being the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

When the gunfire stopped Sunday night at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 59 people were dead and 489 others were wounded. 

A 64-year-old terrorist from nearby Mesquite, Nev., had turned his hotel suite on the 32nd floor of the resort in America’s playground into a den of destruction, smashing out two windows in the resort tower and spraying the crowd of 22,000 country music fans below with a hail of bullets from an arsenal of 23 weapons he had stashed in the room.

Stephen Paddock, an oddball millionaire with no criminal record and known to frequent the Las Vegas casinos, had another 19 firearms and explosive materials at his home in Mesquite and more weapons in a second home in Reno, Nev., police said.

At least 12 of the semiautomatic weapons found in the hotel, police said, had been outfitted with devices to turn them into continuous-fire assault weapons capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute. 

When police stormed the room, which Mr. Paddock had rigged inside and out with cameras, they found him dead from what they said was a self-inflicted gunshot.

We believe the nation, too, is dying of a self-inflicted political paralysis that prevents us from dealing head-on with these gun tragedies of mass proportion. How many more people must die before Congress breaks free from the National Rifle Association’s chokehold and acts to protect the people of the United States?

As a nation, we are horrified each time a gunman walks into a classroom, a movie theater, a church, an office building, a nightclub, a mall or restaurant and opens fire. After Sunday, people will be worried about attending concerts or sporting events or political rallies in large crowds, worried whether sniper fire will come from the rooftops or windows of skyscrapers or office towers nearby.

But as former President Obama said in late 2015 after consoling grieving families in the country’s 11th mass shooting since he took office in 2009, thoughts and prayers are not enough.

Action is needed — and it’s way overdue.

According to GunViolenceArchive.org, at least 585 people have been killed and 2,156 injured in mass shooting incidents since the June 12, 2016, massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. In that deadly event, which was the worst before Las Vegas, 49 people were killed and 58 were wounded by a gunman who opened fire on the dance floor.

We call on voters to contact our congressional representatives and our elected representatives in the Virginia General Assembly to ban all military-style assault weapons for civilian use. Outside of military use and for law enforcement, such weapons have no legitimate purpose. They are not needed for hunting target shooting or to have a good time. They are simply killing machines.