Las Vegas shooting might be evil, but it's also banal

Donald Trump has spoken. He has described the Las Vegas slaughter as an act of pure evil. That may be so, but it was also an act of utter banality. We have been here before.

An angry American man shot dead innocents en masse and then turned a gun on himself.

Only the details differ. The shooter in this case is older than usual and the toll of dead and wounded higher. The video from the scene suggests that on this occasion the murderer might have used a fully automatic weapon rather than a semi.

We don't yet know if the guns were legally acquired, but what is staggering - to those outside the United States at least - is that they may well have been.

Two gun store owners have already come forward to say that they sold weapons to Stephen Paddock and that he passed all the appropriate background checks.

Police have now confirmed that when they broke into the hotel room from which Paddock fired into the crowd they found an arsenal of 19 weapons.

Given that Paddock was in Nevada, an old west state with historically liberal gun laws, if those weapons were shotguns, handguns and rifles, Paddock would have been able to purchase them without either permit or license. He also would have been able to legally acquire the high capacity magazines that have proved their utility in previous mass killings.

In Nevada, as in around 30 other US states, it is legal not only to own military-style semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 derivatives that have proven so enduringly so popular among mass killers, but also machine guns.

Considered "Class III" weapons, machine guns fall under the National Firearms Act, a relic of the days when FBI agents battled Al Capone's gangsters who were armed with automatic weapons. If Paddock wanted a Class III permit he would have had to undergo a background check and pay a fee.

Then again, says Richard Feldman, a leading American gun law consultant and lobbyist, he might simply have had a semi-automatic converted, a process that only takes a couple of hours in a well equipped workshop.

Feldman is a staunch Second Amendment man, even though he was fired years ago by the NRA for backing Bill Clinton's efforts to have handguns sold with trigger locks.

Like everyone else I have spoken with in the US since this most recent shooting, Feldman does not believe gun laws will change significantly as a result of this latest atrocity.

Pro-gun legislation already making its way through Congress, such as moves to have silencers legalised, might stall for a time, Feldman says, but don't expect to see national bans or buybacks, regulation or restriction.

In a month, he says, the only people who will care about gun laws will be gun owners. People who don't own guns will have moved on to other issues. This is why the extremists keep winning this debate. The NRA can gather up five million people to vote and donate on a single issue. The vast majority who disagree with them have other things on their minds.

The response to this shooting is already playing out according to the established script. Politicians are offering thoughts and prayers, gun control advocates are making their case. The NRA is silent, the arms manufacturers are enjoying a rise in their stock prices and pro-gun social media is awash with "false flag" conspiracy theories.

If the piles of dead children in Sandy Hook didn't provoke change, this won't, says one angry old friend on the phone.

"All those people died for no goddamn reason, and nothing is going to come of it."

It is hard not to agree with him too.

Since Sandy Hook there have been at least 1,518 mass shootings in America. At least 1,715 people killed and 6,089 have been wounded.

This story Las Vegas shooting might be evil, but it's also banal first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.