What do we say now?

What do we do now?

What do I, a longtime gun owner, say now?

The deadly barrage unleashed from above at one of America’s favorite playgrounds has taken more than 50 lives. More may die, as some of the 500 injured succumb to grave wounds.

From what we know, the shooter was a 64-year-old white man firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, using rifles, which are effective at a distance, to turn the country music Route 91 Harvest Festival into a killing zone.

I am a lawful gun owner and I am as sickened as you, maybe more, because this slaughter — modern history’s deadliest mass killing by gun by an American on American soil — will be used to recharge the batteries on calls for gun control.

I support some measures — such as universal background checks and closing all gun-sale loopholes — but some antigun forces will try to use the Las Vegas massacre as a battering ram to drive legislation to punch holes in the Second Amendment. That will create a backlash, because about one-third of Americans own guns.

In Las Vegas, police responded quickly and effectively. When they burst into the hotel room, they reportedly found gunman Stephen Paddock had killed himself. Early reports indicate he was not known to police in Mesquite, Nev., where he lived.

If he had no police record, and if he had not been institutionalized for mental problems, the shooter legally could have bought a gun, or many guns.

This shooting replaced the June 12, 2016, mass murder inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub as the nation’s deadliest in modern times.

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo described the attack as the work of a “lone wolf.”

A rabid wolf. A homicidal, suicidal wolf.

We don’t know how Paddock acquired his arsenal, the means of murder, nor do we know the motive for his crime. In the end, the motive doesn’t matter because he had the means.

So what do we do about that?

As a lawful gun owner, as a defender of the Bill of Rights — all of them — I say you can’t saddle the 99.9 percent of gun owners who have done nothing wrong with the sins of the 0.1 percent who have criminal intent.

But it gets harder for me to say that, to believe that, each time something like this happens. It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.

I do believe that my guns protect me and endanger no one else.

But I can’t deny the brutal evidence that guns in the wrong hands kill innocent people. There is no magic wand that I or society can wave to guarantee that guns wind up in the only right hands.

So I wait for the next horror and wonder what I will say next time.

Stu Bykofsky

Contributing Columnist

Stu Bykofsky is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may email him at [email protected]