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EDITORIAL: Congress must act soon on federal gun control


There’s a good chance we might never know what possessed a reclusive, anti-social gambler with deep pockets to go on the most murderous shooting spree in American history, which took the lives of 59 innocent people, including Tewksbury resident Rhonda LeRocque, and injured 527 others.

Investigators will do their best to piece together the steps that led this individual to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and unleash that hellish fusillade Sunday night on those thousands of country music fans.

His high-roller status may have afforded him an absence of scrutiny that the ordinary hotel guest might have received, which helped camouflage the true intent carried in those 10 pieces of luggage containing those instruments of mass murder.

According to his brother, the shooter was devoid of any strong religious or political beliefs, thus making the motive for his mayhem all the more puzzling. His only ties to crime ran through his father, who was convicted in 1961 of committing a series of bank robberies and spent several years on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitive” list.

What’s certain is that he couldn’t have picked a more firearms-friendly state to conduct his fiendish business.

Overall, Nevada’s gun restrictions shoot blanks. There are no permit requirements for purchasing handguns, rifles or shotguns, according to the National Rifle Association. Residents also are allowed to carry guns openly throughout the state. It’s legal to purchase semiautomatic weapons, and also to own an automatic weapon or machine gun made before March 19, 1986, with special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department.

To residents of Massachusetts — and other states with much stricter gun-control laws — Nevada’s six-gun mentality must seem like a remnant from the Wild West. But we also know that our laws haven’t stopped the prevalence of illegal firearms flowing into this state.

That’s because we can’t manage what’s beyond our control — with conflicting gun laws found in other states.

That’s why — as Congress attempted to do after the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre — we must pass gun-control laws on the federal level that compel every state to follow the same rules.

Newtown prompted a renewed push in Washington for laws expanding background checks to include private sales and gun shows. In Congress, 54 senators voted in 2013 for a bipartisan bill, but it failed to gain the 60 votes needed overcome a filibuster.

It’s now time — after a proper mourning period for these Las Vegas victims but before the shock and outrage from this carnage fades — for Congress to again push for federal standards on background checks and to remove weapons that should only be carried by the military and law enforcement from the hands of ordinary citizens.

Of course, the National Rifle Association will vigorously pressure lawmakers to maintain the status quo, based on the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

But our only unalienable rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — not an entitlement to possess weapons whose only purpose is to take the life of another human being.

Obviously, laws will accomplish only so much. They can’t stop every deranged person with a score to settle. But at least we can make it as difficult as humanly possible by enacting a tough national gun-control standard. If this atrocious act of mass murder won’t move this country to act, what will?

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