America’s Leadership Vice: Las Vegas Highlights Lack of Political Leadership

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

Written by Aldo Aragon

It seemed like the wave of stretchers would never cease to overwhelm the staff at Las Vegas’ Sunrise Hospital after Stephen Paddock murdered 58 people and caused the injuries of 489 more with his arsenal of 23 firearms. Blood was plentiful throughout this abhorrent evening as Paddock took aim at a sea of 22,000 innocent concert-goers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Videos of the chaos surfaced, causing heartache and stirring horror for Americans and the rest of the world. The shock sparked by the bullets whizzing through the air is ingrained into the minds of those lucky enough to survive a madman’s malevolence.

The aftermath of these terrible scenes highlight the decay of American political leadership due to the parasitic partisanship.

Capitol Hill responded to the nightmare of Las Vegas with the inevitable delivery of thoughts and prayers by many in the Republican Party. Conversely, many Democrats including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Chris Murphy condemned the insufficiency of providing ambiguous thoughts and empty prayers. Senator Murphy’s strong reaction inveighed against continued policy inaction, stating that such apathy acts as “an unintentional endorsement” for “mass murderers.”

Both California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein made it clear that Congressional apathy is unsustainable. Despite stating that “no law would have prevented” Paddock from carrying out last week’s massacre, Feinstein emphasized the need to prioritize enduring measures for gun control by solidifying them in law rather than simple regulations.

To that point, Feinstein is leading the charge on proposing legislation to ban “bump stocks,” which were used by Paddock to modify his weapons from semiautomatic to fully-automatic, allowing him to take 90 shots in 10 seconds. Such a ban has even found support among leading NRA members, albeit through a noticeably different process, articulating the need to ban bump stocks through an ATF policy-mandate rather than legislation.

Such distinction is something to note. An ATF policy-mandate is impermanent and narrow. Overturning policy demands significant political capital, whereas any president could wake up one morning and think the ATF mandate on bump stocks is no longer needed. The NRA’s preference for an ATF-centered approach highlights a “bend but don’t break” approach designed to avert a wide-ranging policy conversation on gun control.

The reality of the political situation is that no gun control policy will pass without considerable Republican support. Rhetoric from politicians like Harris and Feinstein is comforting in that they are consistent voices for sensical responses to these tragedies. Nevertheless, their seats are not threatened by coming out in support of gun control measures. Rather, it is a matter of waiting to see if Republicans align with the preference of their powerful NRA donors or if they decide to take long-term action to hedge against another incident such as Las Vegas.

In my opinion, the former is supplanting responsibility to protect constituents with a fragile façade of compassionate leadership. The mere fact that the Republican Party is not striving to work with Democrats to put a long-lasting bill on President Trump’s desk accentuates the demise of courageous leadership whose goal is to construct a shared vision of substantive policy-making for a better union.

Democrats should be calling this out for what it is. It is not okay for Republicans to unenthustiastically support a ban on bump stocks while at the same time waiting to reintroduce the NRA-backed SHARE Act which would make it easier to purchase silencers.

American citizens should be outraged at the complete degradation of compassionate and substantive leadership from those who claim to represent the interests of Americans. This expands beyond Las Vegas—touching on the inability to fix health care, address income inequality, and tackle climate change. Unfortunately, these critical issues will continue to inhibit society as our political representatives feel the pressure of dark money in the country’s campaign finance structure.

Courageous policy-making is in critical condition and the heart of proper public service is tarnished. As American citizens and residents, the ball remains in our court to address this leadership crisis, folks.

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