13:54, October 04 72 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-04 13:54:03
The ‘pure evil’ of the Las Vegas shooting

I assume your front-page headline quote of President Trump’s verdict on the Las Vegas shooting by Stephen Paddock was intended to be ironic: ‘An act of pure evil’: 58 shot dead in Las Vegas massacre, 3 October.

In 1966 Charles Whitman lugged a trunkful of guns and ammunition to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower in Austin and, after killing a receptionist and tourists on the stairs, he began shooting people on the ground below (As campus carry becomes Texas law, memories of UT Tower massacre linger, theguardian.com, 31 July 2016). By the time officers had worked their way up the stairs and shot him dead, he had killed 16 people and wounded more than 30. He left a suicide note saying he had become the victim of irrational thoughts. A postmortem revealed a brain tumour.

It is interesting that those who knew Paddock were “dumbfounded” by his uncharacteristic behaviour. Whitman’s behaviour was similarly uncharacteristic: he was a worthy citizen: a former marine, an Eagle Scout and bank teller.

Perhaps President Tump should wait for the post-mortem on Paddock before he fires off meaningless tweets. But theologians will get a lot of pleasure from debating the meaning of “pure evil”.

Chris Harris

Sway, Hampshire

America’s second amendment of 1791, the right of people to keep and bear arms, was influenced by England’s Bill of Rights 1689. This act supported the natural rights of self-defence, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defence of the state (After the carnage in Las Vegas, America faces a choice, theguardian.com, 2 October).

In 1939 the US supreme court ruled (United States v Miller) that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia”.

Were the guns used by a private citizen in Las Vegas needed to preserve, or make more efficient, the US militia? Were they needed to defend the US?

Like a Chekhov gun appearing in the first act of a play, why would anyone ever buy a gun if not with the intention of using it some day?

Alison Hackett

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland

Tragically, far from being an aberration, the horrific events in Las Vegas are the latest incident in a persistent pattern that sees the citizens of the US subjected to mass shootings 11 times more often than in any other advanced country (America’s passion for guns: ownership and violence by numbers, 3 October).

The airwaves are already crowded with representatives of the gun lobby making the all too familiar, and self-serving, argument that greater controls on gun ownership would have done nothing to prevent 58 people being shot dead at an open-air concert, and that bearing arms is a non-negotiable constitutional right. As in the past, they will not be moved by appeals to reason, or even a president in tears at the waste of life, but as self-proclaimed patriots and defenders of the constitution they can hardly object to a call to return to the original spirit and intention of that great founding document, and restrict every adult to owning a musket and a powder horn.

Graham Murdock

Professor of culture and economy, Loughborough University

Another massacre perpetrated by a rogue gunman exercising his right to bear arms. Doubtless the National Rifle Association will now trot out its mantra that “the only thing to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a bigger gun”? Question for the NRA: why is the good man never around when these massacres occur? The Founding Fathers must be turning in their graves.

Richard Head

Melksham, Wiltshire

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters