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How to remember the Las Vegas massacre                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Oct/06/2017 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: Perspectives, Society, Watching America,

I began my Monday morning the same as most, a glass of juice and a few pills that seem to be more and more a part of daily life as I accumulate years and candles on my cake. The television was on in the background and I quickly became aware that something tragic had happened consuming all the broadcast. Now focused on the news I learned that there had been a mass shooting in Las Vegas the previous evening with at least 58 fatalities and well over 500 in the hospital, some in critical condition. I kept the news running in the background for the rest of my day. It did not take me long me long to resurrect familiar emotions.

As of this writing, the motivations of Stephen Paddock, the now-dead suspect in the Las Vegas massacre are not known. Nobody fires thousands of rounds from a hotel window into a crowd of strangers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival country music concert without a motive. In a similar way, the Tsarnaev brothers attacked the Boston Marathon. Additionally, there is Omar Mateen who killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub in 2016. In doing so Paddock, Mateen and the Tsarnaev’s attacked public events that are intended to bring people together in a positive manner.

Not that long ago terrorists attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris attempting to stifle freedom of expression. When Dylann Roof, a white man, killed eight black parishioners and their pastor at a church in Charleston, he tried to make us feel that we could not all live together. All of these individuals tried to make us feel unsafe, to create fear and ultimately alter or limit our freedoms.

Regardless of what motivated Stephen Paddock, the argument that he “simply snapped” does not hold water. He went out of his way to reserve a suite of rooms at the Mandalay Bay hotel specifically facing the concert grounds on the 32 floor. He carried more than twenty weapons to his hotel room, many modified to fire in an automatic mode. He brought thousands of rounds of ammunition with him to the hotel. He also brought a ‘hammer-like-device’ to his room specifically to break out the windows. Additionally, he set up surveillance cameras in the hallway to monitor any activity that might be approaching his shooting perch. Of critical note, he also performed many of these same acts, maybe as a rehearsal a few weeks earlier at another hotel overlooking a different concert. Whether Paddock’s motivation is ever learned or not, too much planning and logistics took place for this to be the consequence of emotionally “snapping.”

With the blood of the victims still wet on the concert grounds, people jumped to politicize the tragedy. For those whose stock in trade is blaming all things on racial identity politics, they pointed to Paddock’s race (he was white) and began ranting that the response by law enforcement and the media would have been different if his skin would have been darker.

There were some pundits who claimed that the shooter was motivated by anti-Trump animus. They go on to profile society arguing that there would be more Trump supports at a country-western concert than elsewhere making the event a prime target for “this type of person.” This is ultimately the extremism of our current partisan politics that is the stock in trade of far too many.

Anti-gun activists jumped on a new bill that is advancing in the House of Representatives that would loosen the rules on buying silencers for guns, claiming that if Paddock had had a silencer, more people would be dead. It is difficult to imagine that the behavior of a shooter from a high vantage with long rifles firing automatically would be significantly different with a silencer. There is the obvious talk from law makers, pundits and former Presidential candidates about restricting automatic weapons and requiring background checks for all weapons purchases. Strangely, none of that would likely have made a difference here. There are numerous laws that very tightly restrict the purchase of fully automatic weapons. It should be noted that as reported none of the weapons in Stephen Paddock’s arsenal were fully automatic, but a number of them had received an easily implemented aftermarket modification that allow them to perform very much like a fully automatic weapon.

One of the most common modifications that can be made to a semi-automatic rifle is the installation of what is called a “bump-stock.” This is an unregulated $50 item available to fit a variety of weapons. The bump-stock can be installed on most weapons with just a screwdriver. Once installed, the device uses the recoil energy of the weapon to cycle mechanical energy to the trigger keeping a steady sequence of fire.

Background checks have been the law for gun purchases in Nevada where Paddock lived for a number years. In the case of Stephen Paddock, at 64 years old he did not even have a traffic citation in his record so a background check would not have raised any flags. It is important for us remember that those who kill innocent victims do not do so simply because they wish them dead – terrorism, if it was that is about killing a few to strike fear into many. Terrorism is a form of activism coupled with narcissism. On the other hand, Paddock, in some sick and twisted way may have thought he was making a difference, that his behavior was somehow changing something. There is also the possibility that this is merely a maniacal and sociopathic form of creating a personal legacy, or infamous footnote in history. If this has been an aspiration to create a historical legacy, he has surely accomplished his goal. It is a worth noting that Paddock was prescribed the anti-anxiety drug valium 15 weeks earlier. Chronic abuse of valium can trigger psychotic experiences, though this would have clearly been a very sustained psychotic break.

Law enforcement needs to investigate and determine what if any motive Stephen Paddock had, and what if anything we can do to prevent this in the future. For the rest of us we need to decide on a personal basis and collectively how we remember and respond to the Las Vegas massacre. Do we ban outdoor concerts? Do we start putting security snipers on all tall structures? Do we write more gun laws? Should we install metal detectors and security personnel at the entrances to all buildings over 5 stories tall? I personally do not want to do any of these things or deal with the host of other potential infringements upon my civil liberties. Nearly every time something like this happens there is a knee-jerk reaction that reins in our freedoms just a little bit more.

Legislation is a great tool, but it needs to come with thoughtfulness and be truly enforceable. The Supreme Court has repeatedly supported the second amendment, but they have also been willing to impose some restrictions on gun ownership including making it very difficult to purchase fully automatic weapons. There is no reason why any private citizen should own automatic weapons or be able to purchase products that easily modify a semi-automatic weapon to fire automatically. In 2012, legislation was introduced in Congress to ban the sale of “bump-stock” like devices and "trigger cranks." Unfortunately for those in Las Vegas, heavy lobbying by the device manufacturer representatives killed the legislation.

In truth, despite the tragedy of the Las Vegas massacre I recommend changing nothing except for regulating devices that modify weapons to fire in a near automatic mode. Paddocks actions have already killed at least 58 and left a horrific legacy. If in some strange and psychotic way he wanted an infamous legacy, he has it. Piling onto his legacy more restrictions to our freedoms merely enlarges his shadow.

Shortly after news of the Las Vegas massacre hit the news media, ISIS claimed that Stephen Paddock had converted to Islam 6 months earlier and carried out the attack on their behalf. This notion is doubtful because until very recently he was seen regularly drinking and gambling in the casinos which would be forbidden to Muslims. Unfortunately, this is the kind of massacre that ISIS would like to get credit for to instill fear and inspire more recruits.

It is important that we mourn those who are lost and those whose injuries will permanently alter their lives. It is important that privately owned weapons be stored in a safe and secure manner. It is important that we tightly restrict automatic weapons and the path to easily modifying weapons to be automatic. We also need to stay vigilant in our monitoring the behavior of those around us. Lastly, we need to ensure that as a society any changes to our laws and our freedoms are done with methodical consideration and not a knee-jerk reaction.

As for Paddock, this guy appears to have been interested in racking up a big body count, and had the money and the quirky brain to enable him to turn himself into a comic book villain.

Any reaction, whether political or fear based that restricts our liberties will ultimately only erode America and empower Paddocks legacy.

Comments (1)                                                                                                                                                    [Add Comment]


I agree with what you said here... Very well said.

Posted at: Oct/07/2017 : Posted by: Linda Mann

Arnold Bennett
It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top.
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