Owen Searcy and Dana Rushing were backed by a senior US firearms lobbyist who claimed the futility of strict gun laws was 'proved' by their failure to stop IRA terrorists smuggling rifles into the UK.
Mr Searcy, 32, and Ms Rushing, 57, a nurse, were praised for saving lives by shepherding fellow country music fans to shelter and giving first aid after Stephen Paddock opened fire, killing at least 59 people.
Mr Paddock, 64, had 23 firearms in his hotel room, including an AK-47 and an AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle. He had more weapons at his home and is thought to have amassed a collection of 47 firearms, all thought to have been bought legally from US gun stores.
But Ms Rushing said those now calling for firearms laws were politicising a tragedy that could not have been stopped by gun control.
“It was just a tragedy,” she told the BBC. “There are so many people trying to politicise it. [But] it was just a man who planned to mass destruction.
“All the gun control in the world isn’t going to stop those kinds of people getting hold of weapons – no matter what type of weapons they are – to do this type of destruction.”
After he and his mother told the Victoria Derbyshire show of risking their lives to save as many people as possible, Mr Searcy said he had been left so traumatised he couldn’t sleep, adding: “I saw things I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
But he agreed with his mother that gun control could not have stopped the Las Vegas massacre or other US mass shootings.
Mr Searcy, who owns a South California tile business, said: “This guy also had explosives, according to reports. You think back to a lot of tragedies in our history: there is no substitute for someone being a violent person, there’s no substitute for crazy.
“There’s no substitute for someone deciding to do something and finding the right tools to do it.”
Ms Rushing and Mr Searcy were immediately backed by Sam Paredes, the executive director of Gun Owners of California.
He said: “The world needs to know you have just heard the voices of two American heroes. That is the most important message the world needs to see.
“With respect to the subject of gun control, the sentiments that Owen and Dina mentioned are the sentiments of Americans.”
When pressed by presenter Chloe Tilley about possible differences between owning rifles for weekend hunting and amassing a 40-gun arsenal including semi-automatics and unlimited ammunition, Mr Paredes insisted owning 40 firearms was normal for America.
“Wait,” he said, “You are coming from a British perspective. Forty firearms owned by one individual is not uncommon throughout the country.”
Mr Paredes, whose organisation exists to argue against gun control, added: “We have 400 million guns in private ownership in this country.”
Asked to explain why any individual would need to own 40 guns, he said: “It is not a matter of need.
“It is not the place of any ruler to decide what people need or want.
“Why does someone need two or three Ferraris and a Porsche in their garage when we know that more people die from the illegal use and high speed use of automobiles than all the firearms tragedies in America?”
Mr Paredes insisted: “We have every conceivable gun law on the books in America, and it is not preventing … I live in California where our gun laws are almost as stringent as your gun laws in England. The only thing we don’t have is an outright ban.
“And still these gun laws haven’t been able to prevent tragedies [perpetrated by] people of evil intent.”
This, he said, was “just like in your country.
“All the gun laws and all the gun bans you had did not prevent the IRA from being able to bring in all manner of firearms and explosives.”
The IRA was a terrorist organisation which at its peak could draw on the resources of 30,000 members. Mr Paddock was a 64-year-old who is thought to have acted alone.
To acquire its weapons, the IRA had to go to the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or cut deals in America with arms dealers linked to organised crime.
To acquire his semi-automatic rifles Mr Paddock could go into one of America’s tens of thousands of gun stores and buy the weapons legally.
In 2017 alone, there have so far been seven mass shootings in the US in which three or more people have died, with a total of at least 81 fatalities. In the 30 years between 1987 and 2017 there were three UK incidents that fitted the same definition of mass shooting, with a total of 46 fatalities: (the 1987 Hungerford massacre, the 1996 Dunblane shooting, and the 2010 killings by Cumbrian taxi driver Derrick Bird.)
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