Fifty-eight killed, five hundred twenty-seven injured. That is America’s newest casualty count. A casualty count not from a skirmish in a war, but from a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. A concert. One more time, for the people in the back: a concert. And get this: it was all done by one person. It was not an ISIS sympathizer, not a foreign adversarial political actor, not a mentally unstable person who flew under the radar. It was just a man. A white man. An old, white man. A secular American citizen with no history of a mental illness. 64-year-old Nevada millionaire Stephen Paddock, who owned literally dozens of – as far as we know – legally purchased and modified firearms, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition.
On the surface, this sounds kind of dumbfounding. That’s an appropriate reaction. How could this traditionally characteristic paragon of American society perform such an unconscionable act of evil and, most importantly, terror? Yes, terror. This was terrorism. This American man, who was not a Muslim, not a member of the KKK, not a foreign insurgent, is a terrorist.
However, many Americans are refusing to call this terrorism. Even Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo refused to call it such, saying that he couldn’t call it terrorism “at this time”; “this time” being within hours after the shooting took place. I’m sure the victims – whose bullet wounds and trampling injuries tell personal stories of terror and fear unfathomable to any – would have to disagree. I’m sure anybody who heard the words “shooting” and “killed” and “injured” being broadcasted on every news channel in the country would probably put their foot down on this one as well. And, probably the most authoritative, Nevada state law would also have to disagree with this law enforcement officer. But still, he was just a guy who made a very bad decision, as far as Lombardo, the National Rifle Association, gun companies, and many Americans are concerned.
These groups, and even conservative lawmakers, are also resolute in how they feel about the most visible issue that has arisen out of this impermissible occurrence: gun laws. The taboo topic of today, which must be addressed after this and all two hundred sixty-one (and counting) mass shootings that have occurred in the United States this year alone. Even more so should a conversation occur now, considering that this was the most devastating mass shooting in modern American history.
Predictably, liberal lawmakers, most notably Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), called for more gun control, and rightfully so. As far as investigators have been able to surmise, Paddock had purchased the many dozens of guns and ammunition both found in his Mandalay Bay hotel suite, and subsequently at his home in suburban Nevada, legally. Also, it is entirely possible to legally purchase semiautomatic and automatic weapons in the state of Nevada; a peculiar set of consumer goods to be made available to the general public, especially after America’s more-than-sordid history with keeping firearms out of the hands of the wrong people.
Even more predictably, conservatives across the board initially refused to put any stock in the prospect that maybe sixty gun deaths in twelve minutes is overstepping the line of Second Amendment freedoms. Tomi Lahren, conservative talk show personality and expert nonsense-spouter, took to Twitter to denounce former Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton for suggesting that the NRA may have some blame to own up to for the lack of gun laws that they lobby for and help fellow conservatives campaign on, which has provided ample groundwork for the Las Vegas massacre, and other despicable mass murders, to come to fruition.
To what I imagine was Lahren’s utter surprise, though, her conservative counterparts capitulated, however miniscule the capitulation may have been. The NRA put out a statement promising to put consideration into banning “bump stalks”, a gun modification utilized by Paddock which allowed for his weapons to rain bullets down on concert-goers at an even more accelerated rate. Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated that House Republicans will be moving forward with the same considerations in the coming weeks and months.
While this is good news (as far as good news may extend today) it is a minor solace to take when remembering that the real issue remains to be addressed, and that issue is guns themselves. Yes, I know, guns do not in themselves kill people, but we are doing a disservice to all who have been innocently gunned down with high-capacity rifles in the United States – from Newtown to Orlando – by not admitting that guns make it unequivocally easier for people to kill people. And this admission is what’s being forgone by gun enthusiasts around the country, who are too enthralled in their own hubris to understand that society’s betterment is predicated in part on the regulation of firearms.
While gun owners, gun lobbyists, gun companies, and gun-funded lawmakers allow for unregulated gun shows or continue to stagnate background checks at licensed gun stores, or turn a blind eye to the myriad of mass shootings that have occurred over time, real Americans are being ignored. When those in power refuse to stare down the issue of gun control, the powerless are forced to stare down the barrel of a gun.