COMMENT: Las Vegas shootings highlight stark contrast in control measures

File image of weapons at Bankstown police station as part of the national firearm amnesty. Photo: Isabella Lettini, Fairfax
File image of weapons at Bankstown police station as part of the national firearm amnesty. Photo: Isabella Lettini, Fairfax

The deadliest mass shooting event in American history.

Fifty-nine confirmed dead and more than 500 injured by a single gunman who then took his own life.

Even in a country where shootings are horribly commonplace, Monday night’s events in Las Vegas are an absolute tragedy.

And a disgrace.

That someone is able to get their hands on firearms powerful enough to shoot clip after clip of automatic rounds from the 32nd floor of a hotel into a crowd a block away should be seen as a national disgrace.

It will undoubtedly lead to the debate on gun control rearing its head once again. And undoubtedly it will amount to nothing if past calls for reform are anything to go by.

Police have confirmed that when they broke into the hotel room from which Stephen Paddock fired into the crowd they found an arsenal of 19 weapons.

It’s possible they may all have been obtained legally.

Many Americans are already prohibited from owning fully automatic weapons such as what is said to have been used in Las Vegas (unless it was lawfully owned and registered prior to the Act changes in 1986).

However, in Nevada, as in around 30 other US states, it is legal not only to own military-style semi-automatic rifles that have proven popular among mass killers, but also machine guns.

In the wake of the Las Vegas murders Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was asked whether Australia had lessons on gun control it could teach the US.

In true political style she avoided a direct answer, but reiterated our own changes in the aftermath of Port Arthur.

The National Firearms Agreement had bipartisan support when it was implemented in 1996, placing significant restrictions on private ownership of high capacity semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, and bringing in tighter universal licensing regulations.

Researchers looking into the efficacy of the new restrictions found there were no mass shooting deaths of five or more in Australia from 1997 through 2016, although noted it was impossible to prove the agreement was the cause.

In a stark comparison of our respective experiences with firearms, the horrifying figure of at least 59 killed in Las Vegas is more than the total number of gun-related deaths in Australia in all of 2016, excluding self harm. 

There are surely lessons there somewhere.