Tuesday, October 3, 2017
The Mandalay Bay Massacre
It is safe to say that if the death of 20 elementary school children didn't lead to new gun laws, the death of 58 concert-goers aren't going to inspire any new legislation either. We have created a war zone in this country, as this graph attests to: 1516 mass shootings in 1735 days. Virtually no part of the country is safe. Since July there were 58 persons killed in mass shootings before Stephen Paddock took out that number at a concert in Las Vegas.
On the left we see the same urgency expressed for tighter gun restrictions, and on the right the same equivocation. Never the twain shall meet because in the eyes of too many persons the second amendment is sacrosanct.
The rest of the world shakes its head in wonder. How can a country like the United States bring so much violence upon itself. We have a staggering 33,000 gun-related deaths per year. Most of them are suicides, but last year homicides topped 17,000, a substantial jump from the year before. Not just Chicago, but small towns across America saw a sharp rise in homicides. To put this in perspective, at the peak of the war in Iraq, 29,500 persons were killed in 2006. A soldier was safer in Iraq than a concert-goer was in Las Vegas Sunday night, as Stephen Paddock rained down bullets on the show.
Your only cover in a situation like that are other persons. This is how gruesome it was. Those who dropped to the ground simply made themselves targets. Your only option was to run and hope that he isn't aiming your way.
Most of us will post our condolences and move on. What else can we do? The horror is too difficult to imagine.
Others will seek to gain some sort of political leverage from it, whether on the right or the left. Alas, no amount of gun laws is going to erase the 350 million firearms in circulation. A large percentage of them go unregistered, as you can buy firearms at gun shows, on the Internet or from your next door neighbor and never record the sale. It doesn't matter if you can only buy a semi-automatic rifle, all you need is a "trigger crank" to increase your rounds per minute.
Americans have become very resourceful when it comes to firearms, finding all kinds of ways to modify their weapons. Of course, they will tell you it is only for defense, but one has to wonder about these vast arsenals so many Americans now have, waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse to come any day.
From a geographic point of view, we live in one of the safest places on earth. We went virtually unscathed through two World Wars. North Korea has yet to develop a ballistic missile to deliver a warhead to our shores. Russia seems pretty much content with the current geopolitical status quo. What do we have to fear except ourselves.
We inflict more harm on each other than any country has ever inflicted on us. The civilian death toll from firearms over the past 50 years is greater than the number of Americans who have died on battlefields since the Revolutionary War. That number just keeps growing.
Stephen Paddock left few clues as to the reasons why. All we have at this point is his paramour, who was brought in for questioning. She apparently wasn't around when the retired real estate developer decided to go on his shooting spree. Playing the slots or whatever downstairs. You figure she had to know something, as this was very much a premeditated mission. Even if we do learn what motivated him, so what? Does it draw us one step closer to figuring out what goes on in the mind of a killer? Hardly.
Gun violence is part of our collective DNA. Most of us have become inured to it, unless it hits close to home. Maybe then we start to question the permissive laws in so many states when it comes to guns. Nevada is pretty much a wild west state at this point. You don't need a permit to buy a gun. There are no mandated waiting periods. You can bring a gun into virtually any place, including a casino, so Stephen Paddock was perfectly within his rights to drag his arsenal into Mandalay Bay.
You can bet if the assailant had been Muslim, Trump would have been calling for a universal Muslim ban, but all he can do is offer his prayers to the victims and their families, mum on the potential consequences as a result of this latest mass shooting. If only he could be so sanguine in regard to North Korea, which hasn't fired a single shot at us yet.
Alas, we shouldn't "politicize" these events. That's what Fox News is telling us. Shame on Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all those other liberals calling for gun control so soon after the event. But, when should one ask for more gun control? It's been five years since Sandy Hook and laws have only become more lax, not more stringent. Any city or state that tries to impose tighter gun controls finds these laws being challenged in the federal courts.
To be honest, I don't think there is much we can do at this point. Ever since the ban on assault rifles expired in 2004, the number of such weapons on the market have increased astronomically, with little or no control over their sales. As of 2016, there are at least 5 million AR-15 assault rifles in circulation. Every time there is talk of tighter gun controls, sales jump. If Alex Jones was looking for a conspiracy here, he need look no further than the NRA, which actively promotes the sale of such weapons, army-piercing bullets and other battle-ready equipment.
We have become a militarized nation. As such, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a flak jacket and military-grade helmet when going to the next public event.