A sick and lost country awash in the inane and led by calculating, immoral leaders will always commit pivotal errors leading to erratic, nonsensical policies and false arguments that deflect us from truth.
Eventually that country faces internal turbulence leading to a major demise until or unless rationality prevails.
Here’s an example in point. A few days after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured another 489 people in a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Sheriff Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told breathless reporters, “Don’t you think the concealment of his history, of his life, was well-thought-out? It’s incumbent upon us as professionals to dig that up.”
The comment seems innocuous enough on the surface, even somewhat logical when taken out of the context of the growing normality of mass shootings in this country. Certainly, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with trying to figure out the motive of a deranged murderer. It certainly makes for good copy in newspapers and an interesting two-minute segment on broadcast news at 5:30 p.m. Maybe an enterprising writer can turn Paddock’s life into a book or movie.
But Lombardo’s comment misses the main and only major point of the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival across from Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the place Paddock used to mow down his victims.
Here’s that point: Only a sick and lost culture would allow its citizens to own the massive amount of weaponry and ammunition and a device known as a bump stock that Paddock possessed and brought into his hotel room. That’s the only important part of the Las Vegas shooting story.
I’ve made this point in an earlier post, but I thought I might frame it differently, and it does bear repeating again and again. With all due respect to those killed and injured and their families and to the first responders and the medical professionals who saved lives, what really only matters is that Paddock legally had 23 weapons in his hotel room, which included the bump stock that basically turns a semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun.
It really doesn’t matter on a major level why Paddock did it. The stories of the individual people who died—lots and lots of people die in shootings each day in the sick gun culture in which we live—don’t matter either in any preventative, lesson-learned sense, and I write that with all sympathy and respect. It doesn’t matter that people were heroes and saved lives even though we can admire them and give them medals and awards, which will be done instead of fixing the problem of gun violence.
If we want to stop the carnage and live a more peaceful existence, the only part of the Las Vegas shooting story that matters, again, is that a deranged killer could obtain as much weaponry as Paddock did legally and with enthusiastic support from leading Republican leaders, the National Rifle Association and a sizable segment of our population, which ignorantly clings to sick ideologies and stews in endless paranoia.
Most of Paddock’s weapons were designed to kill massive amounts of people. They were not designed for protection if, say, an intruder breaks into a home. They were not designed for hunting. They were not designed for sport.
If only Sheriff Lombardo would have or could have said, “It’s incumbent upon as professionals to ensure no one ever again can amass that many assault weapons and kill and maim people.”
Australia’s gun laws are another part of the Las Vegas shooting story that matters because it provides a model for us and all the evidence we’ll ever need. After a mass shooting in that country in 1996, it banned semiautomatic rifles and pump-action shotguns. There have been no mass shootings in that country since then.
Las Vegas. Orlando. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. The list goes on. The blood flows. We mourn and respectfully listen to the stories of those people who died horrific, violent deaths.
But there have been so many shootings that the stories of the dead blur into nothing meaningful these days. We’ve become numb. This person was a college student. This person was going to get married soon. This person worked at a law firm. We’ll soon move on to the next set of victim stories. At some point, if we’re not there already, it will become a boring, routine exercise in momentary existential despair, a ritual to endure.
Like Australia, the United States needs to ban semiautomatic weapons and pump-action shotguns. It needs to have stricter vetting regulations for anyone that buys any type of gun. Weapons should only be sold in standalone gun stores that are heavily monitored by authorities and that are required to keep meticulous records on their customers and the weapons they sell.
Freedom does not mean anyone with the money to pay should be given access to massive amounts of weaponry and devices designed only to kill massive numbers of people in the shortest amount of time.
But, for now, the people in power continue to assure us that freedom means it’s on to the next mass shooting.