-Ashley Lee (’21)
On October 1, as many families and friends gathered at the Las Vegas Strip for the Route 91 Harvest Festival, sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock shot more than one hundred rounds into the crowd. The concert suddenly became a night of terror and the United States’ deadliest mass shooting in modern history.
While country singer Jason Aldean was performing, spectators were attacked from above on the thirty-second floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel. The ordeal lasted around ten to fifteen minutes. Paddock was able to kill fifty-nine people and injure an estimated five hundred people before he committed suicide. Upon further investigation, it was uncovered that Paddock had checked into the hotel six weeks prior to the shooting, stashing dozens of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
There were many heroic acts during this ordeal, including people driving others to safety zones, creating tourniquets for bleeding victims and shielding others from the rainfall of bullets. Even after the shooting, people lined up at Las Vegas hospitals and across the nation to donate blood for the hundreds of victims.
Though the motive for the deadly shooting is still unclear, testimony from Paddock’s girlfriend indicates a recent decline in Paddock’s physical and mental health, possibly stemming from his addiction to gambling. Whatever Paddock’s motives were for his heinous act, tragedies like these indicate an increasing trend in public mass shootings. Even though overall gun homicide has been on the decline since the ‘90s, mass shootings have almost tripled in frequency since 2011 with no signs of slowing down. While pundits on the left have been quick to politicize the tragedy by calling it a clear example for the immediate adoption of more stringent gun laws, right-wing activists have responded by citing Paddock’s mental state, not the gun modifications that he had, as the main cause for the shooting.
Regardless of what the pundits and politicians have to say, the Las Vegas shooting raises many important questions. Why was Paddock allowed to stockpile so many semi-automatic weapons legally under Nevada law, and why was he easily able to augment his semi-automatic rifles with a bump stock, which uses the gun’s recoil to simulate automatic fire, even though automatic weapons are extremely regulated elsewhere in the United States? These questions will hopefully be the basis for change in the coming months. But for right now, mourning and remembrance of those lost is the most appropriate course of action.
On Wednesday, President Trump visited Las Vegas, praising law enforcement and medical workers for their professionalism and quick reaction to the situation. President Trump went on to state that talks on gun control will come later, only after mourning for the tragedy. On the same day, Nelba Márquez-Greene, the mother of a child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 tweeted: “In America, we value guns, flags, and fake acts of patriotism over people, pain, and real acts of courage.” Is Las Vegas our rude awakening to a national issue, or has this already become our new normal?