Our Opinion: Again, America reels from mass shooting

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Once again, America finds itself reeling in the aftermath of gun violence, this time at a concert in Las Vegas that turned from an entertaining communal event among country music fans into a slaughter within moments. It is the largest mass shooting in the nation's history, surpassing the death tolls from past unimaginable horrors.

The apparent gunman, Stephen Paddock, killed 58 and injured more than 500 others when he opened fire Sunday from a hotel room on those attending the concert near the Mandalay Bay Resort on the famous Las Vegas strip. The shooter, who did not have a criminal record, killed himself before police arrived, leaving questions about his motivation that may never be answered.

The previous highest death toll in a U.S. mass shooting was the 49 killed last year at a gay night club in Orlando. The next two on the list where at Virginia Tech (32) and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (26), and what the four most notably have in common is that the victims were primarily young people.

"This could be anybody's kids, including ours," Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval on Monday morning. Governor Baker told reporters that in his phone conversation with his counterpart "I told him I have three kids. They go to concerts like that all the time, and there but for the grace of God ..."

The governor's reaction was certainly akin to that of many across the state and nation on Monday. Random violence on a mass scale, while always shocking, is never surprising, and there is never a guarantee that any joyful event, like a concert or a visit to a nightclub, will be spared horrific bloodshed.

The gunman had 10 or more guns in his hotel room, some of which were rifles, including at least one automatic or semi-automatic rifle, according to initial reports from police. The presence of all this weaponry, which no one would need for self defense, helped the shooter accumulate a death toll in record numbers. Automatic weapons were not many years ago the subject of a federal ban, and Governor Baker on Monday said, "I do take some comfort in the fact that assault weapons are banned in Massachusetts and that we have among the toughest gun laws in the country."

In the days and weeks ahead, it is likely that an America that is polarized in so many ways will retreat to its polar opposite sides on gun violence, which has been the case after every past mass shooting. That is unfortunate because there is a vast middle ground to be found in reducing gun violence while also protecting the legitimate rights of gun owners. That is a middle ground gun owners at one time sought before the National Rifle Association became politicized.

Americans must break through positions on guns that are cast in concrete and find that ground. Otherwise, the next mass shooting won't be far away and more Americans will be mourning their children, cut down violently at a concert, on a campus, in a schoolroom, or somewhere else they believed was safe.


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