Is America ready for more stringent gun control?

Another day, another American tragedy.

The horror is a familiar feeling, a knot in the pit of my stomach.

Not again, not another mass shooting in America. No matter now often it occurs, it still hurts.

But judgment is tempered over time.

Yes, there is a feeling of helplessness.

Yes, a feeling of frustration.

But surprise? Not anymore.

It has become a matter of when will the next tragedy occur. In the current American political climate, the chances of a quick solution are nil.

I could rationalise: this incident touched so many people, and they were at a country music concert, the fabric of basic American culture, and they were so innocent, just having a fun night, that America must surely react. But no, I don’t see it that way. 

I think it was Sandy Hook in 2012, where 20 school children and six adults were slaughtered from the gunfire of a 20-year-old man with a history of mental disturbance, that brought home to me the lack of political will in America to engage in gun control.

No matter the number of fatalities or the cause, or the pain, America as a nation is far from ready to focus on gun control.

Rather, there are many indicators it is going the other direction: loosening gun control laws to enable individuals to protect themselves from, well, primarily gun violence.

A casual visitor to America may be unaware of the prevalence of weapons in the culture. But not for long.

It is part of the DNA of the nation. It is particularly ingrained in rural culture, outside of major cities.

I grew up with guns in the house, in South Dakota. My dad was the son of a farmer. He hunted for deer, antelope, duck and pheasant every year, and always came back with game. The game was butchered in the garage, and cut into steaks or ground into sausage meat on the kitchen table. 

I’m not a hunter, but I never had any disrespect for them.

The shooter in the Las Vegas massacre, Stephen Paddock, is alleged to have purchase some of his arsenal of weapons at a shop in Nevada called Guns & Guitars, which specialises in selling new and used gear (“safe and sound” is their catchcry).

One of my favourite lifestyle websites in America is Garden & Gun, which features a natural American mix of stories about food, entertainment, culture, fishing and guns.

Approximately 55 million Americans own a gun, according to research by Harvard and Northeastern universities. How many guns? The number is estimated at 270 million.

So where do you start to tame that gun culture, if you think it is a factor in innocent deaths, like the mounting toll in Vegas?

Gun ownership advocates claim the battleground is the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, which sanctions the right of the citizenry to bear arms. As hard as it may seem to change, it can be done. An amendment to the US Constitution requires a vote of two-thirds of each house of Congress to put an amendment before the states. To ratify the change requires passage by three-fourths of the states (38 at least).

In reality, there is no indication of a political majority wanting tighter controls (like limits on purchases by people with a criminal record or mental instability).

It will take a generation to make progress on gun control in America. The trigger will not be tragedy, but common sense led by leaders who have not yet found their voices.

Jim Kellar is a Newcastle Herald journalist