Another mass shooting in America leaves the rest of the world astounded that Americans stand for this. This time, a man in his 60s has turned into a deranged killer, firing from a room high in a hotel down into a crowd of 22,000 people attending an open-air concert in Las Vegas.
Nobody yet knows why. The gunman died when police stormed the room. He had no police record, he appeared to be a normal, law-abiding 64-year-old man who loved hunting and gambling and firearms, and owned an arsenal. Nothing unusual about that in the United States. Its not hard to buy guns; no questions asked.
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution enshrines a right of the citizen to bear arms, and so the death toll mounts. At least 59 were killed this time, and more than 520 wounded.
It is among the worst of Americas self-inflicted wounds but the response is the same as always. Politicians from the President down pronounce the act to be evil and offer their prayers for the victims, their sympathy for the families and call on the nation to come together at a time like this. If anyone laments lax gun control they are told this is not the moment for politics.
The consequence is not just that nothing is done in the aftermath of these atrocities; the arming of Americans gets worse. Gun sales go up after each incident. Since they see nothing being done to stop the carnage, more citizens decide they and their household need personal protection. It is an insane treadmill of fear that Americans seem unable to step off. Americans shoot and kill each at the rate of 12,000 people a year. Its been reported more Americans die by gunshot each year than in the next 20 richest countries combined.
Yet most Americans support tighter gun controls when they are asked. Somehow their stated wish never turns into legislative change. Majorities in Congress fear political attacks from the National Rifle Association more than majority opinion. That cannot be entirely the fault of the NRA. While its lobbying may be intense and its election advertising merciless on candidates it considers soft on gun rights, its campaigns could not succeed if enough Americans disagreed strongly enough.
The likelihood is that they simply vote on other issues. Despite the frequency of these massacres, the horror of most people passes in a day or two and does not bear heavily on the public mind at election time. It becomes easier for the NRA to summon gun enthusiasts to its cause in election campaigns than it is for liberals to remind voters of the damage loose gun laws are doing. So there seems no end to it.
At least one witness to the Las Vegas tragedy has changed his mind about gun rights. Guitarist Caleb Keeter, whose band was on stage, tweeted that he realised the guns carried by their road crew were no protection that night. If only more Americans could realise an armed population is less safe than one in which forearms are restricted and rare. Sadly, the insanity will continue.