One of the best observations about politics is that if you want to do nothing about some important subject while creating the impression that you are doing something, you should create a committee to study it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked Speaker Paul Ryan to “create a Select Committee on Gun Violence to study and report back common sense legislation to help end this crisis.” This came in response to the Las Vegas mass shooting Sunday night. Pelosi’s idea for a select committee accompanied a request to “pass the bipartisan King-Thompson legislation to strengthen the life-saving background checks that keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
Pelosi doesn’t explain how this legislation might make background checks stronger, or how it would accomplish what background checks apparently haven’t accomplished so far. She neglected to observe that the alleged killer in Las Vegas had apparently passed a lot of background checks because he had a lot of guns.
“The bipartisan committee,” says Pelosi in her letter, “would make recommendations to prevent unspeakable tragedies such as the mass shooting in Las Vegas and to restore confidence in the safety of our communities.”
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Critics might argue that Pelosi still apparently hasn’t figured out that “unspeakable tragedies” like Las Vegas happen in spite of all kinds of laws already on the books. Those laws, like the ones she seems to be advocating for, were adopted to “prevent unspeakable tragedies.”
The body count from Sunday night appears to be holding at 59. More than 500 other people were injured, some badly.
But talking about guns may not really crack the code in this case, or in many of the other cases of mass violence. The spree killer in Santa Barbara who shot three people and stabbed three others a couple of year ago left a manifesto. This so far does not appear to be the case with the presumed Las Vegas shooter.
Stephen Paddock does not fit the profile of a mass killer. He was 64 years old and retired. He apparently had lots of money. He reportedly owned several homes around the country. He enjoyed gambling. His brother told reporters he gave no outward indications of what he may have been planning.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that investigators are still looking for answers. They may never be able to figure out what motivated the killer to open fire on a crowd of thousands from a few hundred yards away.
The WSJ and other news agencies have confirmed that authorities have recovered more than 40 firearms that were “linked” to Paddock. If he was a gun collector, having that number of firearms is not unusual. He had reportedly stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammunition, again not all that alarming to people who are recreational shooters, competitors, varmint hunters or gun enthusiasts.
Until more is known about Paddock, especially if investigators can uncover some kind of motive, anything a Select Committee might produce could be based largely on conjecture.