South Dakota Sen. John Thune's infamously impotent advice to Americans caught in the crosshairs of a mass murderer immediately after the recent massacre in Las Vegas is a revealing glimpse of enfeebled leadership.

His cluelessness was disastrously highlighted by Sunday's massacre in Texas. Thune's behavior is also a sharp contrast to his reaction to the ISIS terrorist who struck in New York last week. Apparently, Thune's commitment to heading off wholesale bloodshed depends on who is doing the killing.

After the carnage in Las Vegas, Thune talked to NBC's Hallie Jackson. Telling her that "we'll look at the facts when we get them all in here," Thune went on to say "it's an open society. And when somebody does what he wants to do it's going to be hard to prevent anything. I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions ... As somebody said — get small."

In other words, we're virtually helpless to stop mass shooters, so people need to get small — as if that advice would have done any good to the targets in Las Vegas and Sutherland, Texas, who were shot randomly and en masse.

As to waiting for the facts to get in, it's been a month since the freakout in Las Vegas and the bump stocks that turned the shooter's semi-automatic into a virtual machine gun are now back on sale. Any steps at regulating or banning them by Congress have gone nowhere, with the National Rifle Association calling bills to ban them "intentionally overreaching."

Having fired countless bursts of automatic fire from my M-16 when I was a Marine in Vietnam, I'd call congressional apathy toward banning these devices intentionally indifferent and appallingly apathetic. I know during his tenure in Congress that Sen. Thune received $181,000 from gun lobbyists throughout the 2016 election cycle. I also just happen to think he can keep the gun lobby happy and not shrug off mass murder at the same time.

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Meanwhile on the front in the war against terrorism, Thune last week abandoned his fatalistic "hard to prevent" rhetoric. Thune said of terrorists: "They're always coming up with new ways to be lethal. And we've got to do everything we can to stop them." No argument there. I just wonder why Thune's boldness and determination apply to one scenario but not the other.

Scientific American magazine looked at this a month ago. It calculated that since 1970 fewer than 100 Americans a year (and that average includes the 3,000 killed on 9/11) are killed by terrorists. Meanwhile, 11,000 Americans are murdered by perps using firearms every year.

Like anybody with a lick of sense and some serious experience with firearms, I know that gun control has its limits. I also know that the war on terrorists, both domestic and foreign, has its limits. But to write one off with a response as feeble as "it's going to be hard to prevent anything" while at the same time vowing "to do everything we can" to keep the other in check is a disheartening contrast of commitments, not to mention a betrayal of pro-active leadership.

John Tsitrian is a Rapid City businessman and freelance writer. You can read more of his commentary at

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