Former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly called the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas “the price of freedom.”
In a blog post on his site titled “Mass Murder in Las Vegas,” O’Reilly argued on Monday that gun violence is an inevitable byproduct of freedom.
“Public safety demands logical gun laws but the issue is so polarizing and emotional that little will be accomplished as there is no common ground,” he wrote. “The NRA and its supporters want easy access to weapons, while the left wants them banned.”
“This is the price of freedom,” he added. “Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.”
While many politicians, media personalities, and celebrities are calling for stricter gun laws, O’Reilly claims that “having covered scores of gun-related crimes over the years, I can tell you that government restrictions will not stop psychopaths from harming people.”
O’Reilly said the Second Amendment allows even “the loons” to have the right to arm themselves for protection. He also dismissed any efforts at passing gun control legislation because the ideological differences are so polarizing between the left and the right that little to nothing would be accomplished.
Sunday’s shooting left 59 dead and more than 500 injured. The incident marked the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history; the 2016 Pulse nightclub attack killed 49. There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since 2013.
The slaughter of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando by a troubled, American-born Islamic State admirer seems likely to lead to new laws in which people who are on no-fly lists because of their connections to suspicious or dangerous groups also face gun-buying restrictions. Donald Trump plans to discuss it with the National Rifle Association.
More profoundly, the mass shooting has the potential to create a new coalition to address solvable problems with U.S. gun laws — if the nation has a civil, straightforward debate. That’s because this coalition will only come together if legal gun owners and the powerful NRA trust these new steps are not part of a long-term scheme to rewrite the Second Amendment. And that can only happen if the gun debate isn’t bogged down by liberals depicting their critics as backward knaves and conservatives dismissing the other side as liberty-hating elitists.
The fact that weak state gun laws create huge opportunities for domestic terrorism is now plain for all to see. Gunman Omar Mateen had no waiting period and didn’t need a permit under Florida law to buy the AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle and the pistol he used in his massacre. A new CBS News poll shows a surge in support for a ban on assault rifles, with 57 percent in favor, including 36 percent of Republicans. If Congress considered adopting a version of the 1994 federal law which banned 19 types of assault rifles before expiring in 2004, there could well be a groundswell of public support.
And if the flaws in the federal background check system for gun purchases were explained, there could be substantial support for change in this area as well. The system is supposed to keep the mentally ill, felons, drug users and unauthorized noncitizens from buying guns. Yet federal law does not require all private sellers to run background checks. A 2015 survey by Northeastern and Harvard universities concluded that 22 percent of gun buyers didn’t undergo background checks. California and some other states have closed this loophole. It makes sense for the federal government to do so as well.
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Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s declaration Tuesday that new gun laws are “definitely needed” because “high-powered weaponry is too easy to get,” and that such laws wouldn’t betray the Second Amendment shows that such changes have a chance of winning broad support. O’Reilly is one of the most prominent American conservatives. His willingness to speak out could help clear a path for GOP lawmakers to support smart new laws.
But that’s not likely in an atmosphere of name-calling. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we saw Tuesday in Sacramento. At one hearing, state Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, blasted those who questioned the likely effectiveness of proposed new state gun-control laws as “crazy, vicious, heartless” people. At another, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, tore into a NRA lobbyist, citing the 49 deaths in Orlando and saying “they were murdered ... because of your organization.”
We share the frustration that many have over gun violence. But Congress must talk about this issue without such histrionics. It’s the only hope we have for getting anything done at the national level — and America badly needs to get something done.