If the man responsible for the Las Vegas shooting massacre had purchased more than one handgun in five days from a licensed seller, federal authorities would have been notified under a provision of a 50-year-old federal law, the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Yet no comparable law exists to notify authorities of multiple purchases of the assault-style rifles Stephen Paddock used in his reign of terror over an outdoor concert crowd on the Las Vegas Strip. A temporary exception requires reporting of multiple rifle sales in the four border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
By September of 2016, Paddock had accumulated 29 weapons — handguns, shotguns and one rifle — purchased over a span of 34 years, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. In the twelve months before the massacre, Paddock purchased another 55 weapons — more than one a week.
“Most of the firearms were rifles of various calibers. With the exception of the revolver, every firearm recovered in the Mandalay Bay was bought after September 2016,” said Metro’s report on the massacre.
A rule change to expand reporting of multiple purchases to all firearms in all states was proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in 2014 but met opposition from the gun lobby. A bill introduced in the House last year seeks to expand the law to all firearms.
It’s the kind of common-sense reform former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, U.S. Navy Captain Mark Kelly, would like to see Congress enact. It also may have alerted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to Paddock’s buying spree in the final year of his life.
“Hey, guns are popular with me. I have a lot of firearms,” Kelly said. “I don’t feel any legislation we propose across the country affects my ability to be a responsible gun owner.”
Giffords, who was shot almost eight years ago while meeting with Arizona constituents, and Kelly were in Las Vegas Monday to observe the anniversary of the worst mass shooting in modern-American history. On Tuesday, they kicked off their “Vote Save Lives,” a tour of campuses in battleground states, with a roundtable at UNLV.
“We’ve been working on this issue for five years now,” said Kelly. “It’s a complicated one. We have 36,000 people who die from gun violence every single year, another 10,000 shot and injured. We are like no other developed country on the planet when it comes to gun violence.”
Kelly introduced Giffords as “the woman who reminds me every day to deny the acceptance of failure. It’s not in her vocabulary. To never give up to keep fighting for what’s right and just. And just fighting to make the world a better place.”
“Stopping gun violence takes courage,” Giffords told the gathering. “Now is the time to be responsible. Democrats. Republicans. Everyone. Fight, fight, fight. Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”
Giffords and Kelly were joined by congressional candidates Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus and U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is challenging Dean Heller for his seat in the U.S. Senate.
Rosen says she’s not afraid that siding up to gun reform activists Giffords and Kelly will cost her any votes in rural Nevada, where her challenge of the incumbent Heller is most vulnerable.
“I don’t think that’s how most reasonable people see it,” Rosen told the Current. “When I talk to people, everywhere I go across the country and in Nevada, they know the difference between responsible gun ownership, hunting, collecting, or shooting and public safety.”
“They’re compassionate and caring people, who especially down here in Southern Nevada understand that we get over 45 million visitors a year, and we want to be sure that we keep that few miles of tourist corridor as safe as we possibly can. And that isn’t going to infringe on the rest of Nevada residents to do what they want,” added Rosen.
Rosen says she is hearing “a lot of support for common sense.”
“I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns. I want to make sure our tourist community, people who work here, people who come here, feel safe and protected. And I think everyone I talk to feels that way whether they’re down south or up in Reno.”
Congresswoman Dina Titus noted that she co-sponsored anti-bump stock legislation in Congress. “It hasn’t gone anywhere,” she said, noting Sen. Heller is taking credit for a proposed Trump administration rule change to prohibit the accessory used by Paddock to turn his semi-automatic weapons into machine guns.
“That’s just a stalling tactic. They’ve already said they need legislation,” said Titus.
“Senator Heller has been there for 10 years,” said Rosen of Heller taking credit for the bump stock rule change that, a year after the shooting, has yet to take effect. “If he wanted to do something he would have already done it. He says one thing in Nevada and then he goes back to Washington and does another.”
Giffords and Kelly are also fighting for legislation to include nine other gun-modifying accessories such as trigger cranks, high capacity shotguns and armor-piercing pistols, to the weapons covered under the National Firearms Act.
Kelly, who says he watched his wife campaign for both state and national office, noted politics is a tough business that requires courage.
“And at the end of the day, you know you need to be a leader,” Kelly says. “And these jobs aren’t guaranteed for life If you are going to get into elected office, what did you go there for? You went there to make a difference. It shouldn’t be you went there for a paycheck. So sometimes leadership is about taking a difficult vote and explaining that vote later.”
After the roundtable, Giffords and Kelly joined Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer to kick off an on-campus canvassing event.
“We want to leave you with a message of hope. We can do better as a country,” Kelly said. “We can do better.”