Regarding the Las Vegas massacre: too angry to mourn

If you have very strong views about the “sanctity” of being able to own as many dangerous weapons as you want, including automatic ones, you should not read this post. You won’t like it. But for the rest of the world watching on, seeing yet another example of the unnecessary carnage that results purely from open access for weapons, listening to the words of comfort, as if this couldn’t have been completely avoided, is too much to bear. The hypocrisy is just too hard to take. What do you mean, “This is a time for unity, not the time to talk politics”? Unity for what?

Yes, this is the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history – since less than 16 months ago, when 49 people were shot in cold blood in a nightclub in Florida. The headlines should more honestly have read, “The worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history, until next time”.

Yes, this shooter may have used more “sophisticated” automatic weapons, with faster firing speed, than ever before, but the Pulse nightclub shooter still managed to kill 49 people the old-fashioned way.

Yes, as the graphs of the U.S. number of homicides by gun versus all other free democracies in the world show (available in many U.S. and non-U.S. newspapers today), the difference is staggering. And those graphs don’t break down the numbers by category to remind us of the scope: murders, mass-shootings (a “special” kind of murder), suicides, and the accidental gun deaths by guns, such as toddlers accidentally shooting siblings, parents accidentally shooting their children, homeowners “accidentally” shooting people unknown to them who come to their door looking for help, or police shooting innocent people because of the underlying fear that everyone they encounter has a gun. Too many guns. Everyone fearful. A bad combination. And in so many cases, entirely preventable.

I wrote a blog when the Sandy Hook massacre occurred 5 years ago. Twenty children and teachers. Children and teachers. Someone who was known to have been mentally unstable was able to purchase guns. And use them. I foolishly thought at the time that this would be what would make everyone sit up and take notice. Many people thought this; how could it not be the case? It would be the one positive outcome from this tragedy of tragedies. But, heartbreakingly, the pessimists were correct. The most that President Obama was able to get through were strengthened restrictions on people with mental illness, and now that has been removed by a Republican President and Congress. Way to go, people.

The massacre in Las Vegas is being described as a “shooting” by a “crazed” or “demented” shooter. No mention of a domestic terrorist who rained terror down on most of the Strip. The reality was that it was pure terror. My brother happened to be visiting Las Vegas at the time and was one of the thousands who were enjoying themselves at casinos and shows along the Strip. People up and down the Strip were told that there was an “active shooter” on the loose, which of course was the reasonable course of action given the unfolding of the situation. People left their chips on tables, dropped to the floor, and were then whisked off into the night, moving they knew not where as SWAT officers with machine guns indicated that they should run in certain directions. People eventually allowed to return to their hotels hours later, to be greeted once again by SWAT officers with machine guns. This, my friends, is terror. And those weren’t even the people at the concert, in the direct line of fire.

The police and the media are now spending a great deal of time searching for a motive. My guess is that this person, who apparently had plenty of money to gamble with, had some problem associated with gambling, money, and authority. He had his own grievances against either the world in general or a few people in particular. And he had guns. And this, for whatever reason, seemed like a good way to express his grievances. You can change the grievance, the name, and the race or religion, but when someone has a grievance and guns, and lives in a culture where this keeps happening, this becomes a sick but predictable outcome. It happens in churches, in places of former employment, in schools, in nightclubs, you name it. Finding the gunman’s motive is not going to change this or prevent a recurrence.

In addition to its longstanding permissive gun laws, the American people have now democratically elected someone who they knew in advance was a bully. Someone who likes pitting people against each other. Someone who calls out some people and not others. Someone who actually enjoys inciting aggression against opponents. Someone who only looks for win-lose solutions, never win-win. He has insulted people within his own Party, most definitely people outside his own Party, and people – American citizens – of non-white races and non-Christian religions. He has also insulted pretty well all American allies; I cannot think of one allied nation about which he has not used the word “disgusting” or “disgraceful” at the very least. Completely unprovoked. For better or worse, this is the role model for many Americans now, and this is the face of America for the rest of the world. Put the resulting license to be angry and lash out at will together with the free availability of increasingly potent weapons, and you have a recipe for continuing domestic terrorism. Scary stuff. But nobody should be shocked or surprised the next time it happens.

This gun “culture” seems to be one of the defining pillars of American “exceptionalism” now. How sad is that.

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6 Responses to Regarding the Las Vegas massacre: too angry to mourn

  1. Roy McCarthy says:

    Very eloquently put Jane. But the American people have the power in their own hands to change things. But still they condone the death penalty in eleven states (for another example). The clear wish among the majority is to keep things the way they are. Politicians everywhere are in it for the
    power and they will enact the laws that will please the majority. But the majority of US citizens speak at every election and they reinforced the position of the hardliners last time.

    I, like many around the world, have admired the US for many years. It is difficult to do so right now. How does a guy check into a hotel with his own private arsenal?

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know, Roy. It’s really hard for most of us outside the U.S. – and so many inside – to fathom. There are a number of issues where they are 100% offside with all other “developed” countries, including the death penalty, guns, lack of any parental leave whatsoever, no universal health care, etc. There’s no understanding it at all. I don’t see a clear path for things turning around. The U.S. has now lost any voice of moral suasion whatsoever. It’s got muscle, but it’s quit the team. The world stage is now a fascinating place in a very scary way. :0

  2. jennypellett says:

    Excellent post, Jane. You’ve articulated what I am sure many of us in the sane world are thinking. I couldn’t believe my eyes on our news programme his morning, when the cameras took us into an American store – like a supermarket – where an array of guns and assorted weapons were on sale next to sweat shirts, luggage and general household wares. It beggars belief. And to call this predilection for owning your own killing device “culture” increases the divide between them and those of us who cherish culture and freedom in the real sense of the word.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. An amazing country with so many advantages and opportunities for good. It’s impossible for most of the rest of the world to understand the continuing support – and even increasingly permissive – gun policies in the U.S., now spreading to “open carry” in university classrooms in some states. This despite all the gun deaths EVERY DAY. Will it take some Republican politicians having the courage to say no to the ENORMOUS political donations provided by the NRA and a few other gun-loving billionaires? Will that ever happen?!

  3. alesiablogs says:

    As an American citizen, I appreciate your writing so much. I do want to remind you, however, these murders do not care who is President. The problem is our government seems to truly not care enough for the sanctity of life. We have a saying…”pursuit of life, liberty and justice for all…” Those words in my mind put life over anything else and that the liberty to have guns should be made illegal because of what we have witnessed over and over in my beautiful United States.

    I am hoping and praying our divided country will wake up and do what is right. I really doubt it. I am hoping for a miracle.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s a fine line to tread on the controversial policy of another country, and I try to respect that. But this kind of tragedy is just so much more heartbreaking because it is avoidable. And now we are all being reminded of a second policy that also astounds the rest of the developed world (and many developing countries, too); many of the victims don’t have health care. Alesia, I share your deep concern for the path your (yes) beautiful country has somehow landed on. It has the potential to contribute so much good in the world, as it has done for many years in the past. I’ll hope and pray with you.

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