The first shots rang out on the Las Vegas Strip at 10:08 p.m. PDT.
Less than 9 hours later, with victims still succumbing to their wounds and the country just starting to wrestle with the enormity of Sunday night’s attack, stocks of U.S. gunmakers were already rising.
This is the new normal.
With the provocative headline “Gun stocks are getting their usual post-bloodshed pop,” an article in Vice News explained the phenomenon.
“Stocks in gun companies have been known to rise in the aftermath of American mass killings, as the killings can lead to an increase in chatter surrounding the imposition of new laws restricting gun sales,” the article reads.
“And while Congress hasn’t passed any new tough new gun laws since 1994’s assault weapons ban (since allowed to expire), the mere mention of new restrictions has been enough to spur a short-term rise in gun sales, and therefore profits for gun makers.”
Of course, the phrase “mere mention” does not do justice to the concerted effort of the gun rights lobby to scare members into donating to the cause or buying more guns.
Things to arm yourself against, the argument goes, are school violence, Latin American drug gangs, looters, as well as the ever-present threat of a government bent on taking back guns.
A 2016 analysis by Bloomberg News showed gun rights advocates had successfully used the threat of legislation to drive gun sales after the mass murders in Newtown, San Bernardino and Orlando. And a report last month detailed how the National Rifle Association spent more money in the first six months of 2017 than all of 2016.
With this in place, and with friends in control of all three branches of government, the gun-rights lobby has become even more brazen.
Prior to Sunday night, pro-gun groups were lobbying heavily to make it easier to purchase silencers, force states to accept other states’ permits for concealed weapons and loosen regulation on the sale of armor-piercing bullets. Those plans have been shelved in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy, but, if history is a guide, this legislation will see the light of day as soon as the outrage over Las Vegas subsides.
The commercialization by gun-rights advocates of fear, fundraising, lobbying and gun sales has industrialized opposition to even the most sensible of gun control measures.
According to Pew Research, there is wide bipartisan support for measures that would prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns, barring gun purchases by people on the no-fly or terror watch list, and for background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows, each having support greater than 75 percent of Republican and Democrats.
Yet, nothing is done.
Even worse, NRA lobbying has led to Congress blocking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from even studying guns as a public health issue.
The lack of meaningful legislation has been thought to be a failure of government. In light of the forces at work, however, the real reason is far worse.
Central to the idea of a republican form of government is the concept of self rule, that barring measure in conflict with the Constitution, voters will choose representatives who will act in the interest of the majority of people.
On the issue of guns, forces of commerce are now not just in a battle with that principle, they are winning. In short, on the issue of guns, we, the people, are no longer the rulers, we have become the ruled. And no number of prayers for the dead and injured or pleas for justice and action will change that.
Long ago, we warned of the uncomfortable truth that more mass shooting will occur. We live with this while hoping that we, our family, friends and acquaintances are not one day in the wrong place at the wrong time. But at this point we need to realize another uncomfortable truth:
The forces working against change are strong, determined, well-financed and not at all willing to bend to the will of the people.