It’s time to Break It Down!
This post is a lightly edited and updated version of the edition I wrote for this space a year ago, in observance of what has become known simply as the Las Vegas shooting. The frequency of mass shootings in America has reached such a ridiculously epidemic pace and volume until it is actually normal to identify them by their location and expect that the odds are good many if not most people will recognize the horror of which you speak. Columbine, Aurora, New Town, Charleston, Orlando, Parkland, and Las Vegas are just a few pertinent examples.
Yesterday was October 1st. Two years earlier, 64 year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire on an outdoor festival in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard during the closing performance by singer Jason Aldean. By the time the shooting stopped eleven minutes later, Paddock had unleashed what is considered the deadliest firearms assault in American history. Incidentally, it displaced the previous record of 49, attributed to the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting at the Pulse Night Club. The toll: 58 fatalities (including Paddock) and 527 injuries.
Paddock had spent three days in his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Using that location as his operations center, he assembled a cache of weaponry that included at least 23 firearms (22 rifles and one handgun) inside the hotel. Some of the rifles were altered from semi-automatic to automatic, using devices known as bump stocks. Once altered, the rifles functioned with the rapid-fire action of machine guns. As police continued investigating the case, they discovered Paddock had at least 47 guns, explosives, and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Let’s not delude ourselves, or others, by saying he snapped. And…if you are an NRA member, or a hard core Republican, then by all means, let’s not even think of introducing the subject of access to firearms, or improved gun legislation into the discourse matrix, because as they have told us for decades, guns don’t kill people; (mentally disturbed) people do.
Paddock used a hammer-like object to break two windows in the suite, from which he launched repeated barrages of gunfire on unsuspecting fans at the concert. The rapidity with which the bullets rained down on the venue created a level of confusion that made it impossible for those taking fire to discern from whence the attack was emanating. If ever there was one, this is an American made tale of woe.
As I noted in this space two years ago, it may surprise some to know, I am an NRA member, a life member, in fact. I maintain an up-to-date CCP…or Concealed Carry Permit, and have qualified for, and held a permit to provide security services. I am not your prototypical “anti-gun” guy. However, I do believe easy access to firearms contributes to the health crisis that is gun violence in America.
Which more or less brings me to my point. After the Vegas tragedy, there was an audacious hue and cry for some kind of action on the gun legislation front. As is frequently the case, in the immediate wake of rampant gun violence, such as in Aurora, or Newtown, or Orlando, the national conversation is so robust, until there is a temptation to believe the discourse might lead to a change in gun laws. In the case of Las Vegas, the chief target was bump stocks.
Following the incident, Donald Trump, several members of Congress, and even the NRA mouthed support for banning bump stocks. They have one purpose; to elevate the degree of carnage that it’s possible to unleash on human beings. Yet, 367 days later, they are still legal instruments of pain and suffering. Meanwhile, we find ourselves immersed in a nationwide discussion about the fate of Brett Kavanagh, as the trio of Trump, Graham, and McConnell endeavor to explain to us how Judge Kavanagh has had his life ruined — because of a Clinton conspiracy — to hold him accountable for his actions. Contemporaneously, Don, Jr. has exclaimed that in this environment, he is more concerned about the fate of his young boys, than that of his young girls…presumably because he fears it’s more likely that some woman will falsely accuse his sons, than it is that a man might attack or abuse his daughters. Just for the record, statistics belie his perception, but that’s an e conversation for another time. Conspiracy theories and alternative facts are definitely a thing (or two things) that resonate(s) repeatedly when discussing the Trumps.
The Kavanagh imbroglio was certainly worth its own space. It was a weighty matter in its own right, and the outcome could alter the trajectory of SCOTUS decisions for decades. I hope it is resolved in an appropriate way. In a way that renders the least onerous outcome on all of us. But in terms of today’s subject, it was simply another distraction.
I am fond of noting, elections have consequences. And they do. Enormous consequences. The Las Vegas shooting created a dynamic that could have led to altering the landscape of the acquisition of some of the most dangerous and destruction-causing firearms accessories available to man. There are many considerations worth being mindful of as we approach November 6TH, Election Day. I submit to you, few are more important than electing people who exhibit the courage to take on the gun lobby. Let me be clear, gun legislation is not a magic bullet. In a land with way more than 300 million firearms, more guns than people by most estimates, new legislation will not make the carnage disappear. Howsumever, It could very well be a step in the right direction. In a logic-driven world, Rule #1 is, if you find yourself in a hole, cease and desist digging! Post haste.
Banning bump stocks didn’t take a single existing device out of circulation. What it did do was stop adding to the plethora of mechanical accelerants for semi-automatic rifles. That did not end the story. But it was step 1, a small step at that, in curbing mass violence. That one act stands as a poignant memorial to the 58 lives lost, and the 527 men and women wounded by Stephen Paddock. It took two and a half months to find the courage to do the right thing.
This summer, August 3rd and 4th, to be precise, in one weekend, two mass shootings occurred, one in El Paso, Texas, and one in Dayton, Ohio, claiming 32 lives (22 in El Paso and 10 in Dayton, and injuring 51, 24 in El Paso and 27 in Dayton. After those August 2019 shootings, once again, fitful spurts of activity ensued, once again, without a lot to show in tangible results.
Some of the current inaction is attributable to the fact Congress was in Recess, and the Senate Majority Leader opted not to call the Senate back into Session. By the time Congress’ six-weeks hiatus had ended, much of the energy and national urgency to do something had waned. This is precisely what opponents of taking action calculated.
There is still an outside chance that Congress will pass something before the end of the year, and possibly, before the election. If anything is certain, it will be a minor piece of legislation. Once again, We The People, a majority of whom favor taking action, appear to be on the path to being thwarted by the deep pockets of the NRA/gun lobby. And no, like the Kavanaugh spectacle of a year ago, the impeachment debate does nothing to promote efforts on this front. Although, for once, I imagine Mr.. Trump might actually prefer the comparatively friendly confines of NRA support in stonewalling firearms legislation rather than the specter of impeachment. But I digress. That was last week’s epistle.
As you know, Congress is not on the ballot next month. But, thousands of local elected officials all across America are facing the power of the ballot. To that end it’s in your (voters) hands. Make your desires known, and most importantly, vote in a matter aligned with your interests.
In many ways, on this front, not much has changed in the two years since Stephen Paddock rained deadly terror on Las Vegas concertgoers. However, it is up to us to be the change we believe in. Meanwhile, we are left with the stark and challenging reality…”Las Vegas Shooting Two Years Later: Opportunity Still Lost!” Can we engage the issue and change that narrative before yet another year has passed?
I’m done; holla back!
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