We’re a deranged, violent society. It’s time for private security to step up.
The gun debate ended when America decided massacring children was OK.
Leading up to this weekend, Stephen Paddock hauled 23 guns, including 12 modified to fire fully automatic, into his Las Vegas hotel room in at least 10 suitcases. Meanwhile, I was checking into a hotel myself, for a relaxing weekend with family and friends in Aqaba, Jordan.
First, I pulled up to an exterior gate, where a guard took my ID and checked my name against a guest list. Then he casually wiped a piece of paper along the door of my vehicle, which he scanned for explosive residue. After we parked, our luggage was passed through an X-ray machine, and we each walked through a metal detector.
In a region where acts of terrorism are common, hotels, clubs and shopping centers have adopted protocols to protect their guests. When I visit commercial establishments in Amman, my trunk is searched before I can park and I must walk through a metal detector. Sometimes, guards pat me down, test my steering wheel for explosive residue or walk a mirror around the undercarriage. This is not an inconvenience. On the contrary, I welcome these searches.
These security measures are part of the reason I feel safer abroad than I do in the United States, where about one-third of households are armed. The U.S. is deteriorating into a Mad Max society, where unprovoked lethal force is often sanctioned by the state. But public venues haven’t adapted by providing private security services for well-meaning guests. From movie theaters to bars to sporting events, we’re completely defenseless. No armed guards, no metal detectors.
We need checkpoints and screenings now. And the reason is that America’s gun fetish has neutralized every effort to impose even the slightest restrictions on access to weapons. When Adam Lanza, a mentally ill 20-year-old, murdered 20 small children and seven others with an AR-15-style rifle and a Glock, sensible Americans believed it was time to enact regulations. But 51 percent still opposed an assault weapons ban, and the bill died in the Senate.
It’s easy to blame the National Rifle Association for the government’s refusal to pass a law banning the civilian sale of war-grade weapons. But actually, after Sandy Hook, more Americans opposed such a ban. Of course, the NRA’s propaganda has been influential, but so were the appeals from Democrats and the gun control lobby. America is perversely obsessed with fire power.
Lanza wiped out a classroom of first graders because he had easy access to powerful guns. Every other factor was incidental. Take away the high-volume clips and rapid-fire rifles, fewer people get killed. Eliminate guns entirely, and maybe nobody would’ve been killed. If America wasn’t willing to impose restrictions after Sandy Hook, then it never will.
After Las Vegas, here’s what’s going to happen: We’ll talk about gun control for a little while, Democrats will propose a bill that’s dead on arrival and then we’ll go back to waiting for the next major massacre.
In the absence of a public safety intervention, maybe it’s time to adopt private security measures: gun bans in public venues, baggage checks at hotels and trunk inspections at malls. Cities could also make public areas safer by installing bollards on sidewalks to prevent vehicle attacks and posting armed patrols at popular locations. (I noticed heavily armed officers in the New York subway when I visited last month, something I hadn’t seen in previous years.)
In much of Latin America, guards at supermarkets and residential towers carry guns. In the Middle East, hotel and shopping mall guards check for weapons. In the U.S., you can bring 10 suitcases full of rifles into a hotel without anyone noticing.
The hospitality industry is already talking along those lines. An article in Skift, a travel industry website, ponders the possibility of Middle East-style security making its way into the U.S.:
Should hotels in Las Vegas and other major destinations consider putting metal detectors and baggage screening machines at their entrances, they’ll need to hire more staff and security personnel to conduct those checks. That level of frontline security is something generally seen at airports, not at hotels, but given what happened it could begin to be the norm for hotels in Las Vegas and beyond.
It shouldn’t have come to this, and I’m aware that this argument plays into the NRA’s hand. But I don’t see an option other than adapting to the circumstances.
We should have curbed gun ownership decades ago, like Australia did. After a 1996 massacre, according to The Atlantic, “the Australian government banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases. It also bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms, in a scheme that cost half a billion dollars and was funded by raising taxes.”
In America, we can’t even get rid of bump stocks, the device Paddock used to convert his semi-automatic rifles into machine guns. Congress rejected a proposed ban in 2013. We’d literally rather shoot ourselves than adopt basic safety laws.
This is the price we’re willing to pay to be the most heavily armed nation on earth.medium.com
Since 2013, 1,719 people have been killed in mass shootings in the U.S. There’s a mass shooting (defined as four or more people shot in a single incident) almost every day. There was even one in Lawrence, Kansas, on the same day as the Las Vegas massacre. “It had to have been some kind of automatic weapon,” a witness there said. “It was going boom, boom, boom, boom.”
Shooting sprees are as American as apple pie. Since we won’t get rid of the guns, it’s time to consider other measures to keep people safe.