Too Angry for “Thoughts and Prayers”: The Las Vegas Shooting and What to Do Next
October 1st, 2017, America fell victim to yet another senseless act of violence, this one being called the largest gun massacre in US History. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Pulse nightclub in Orlando held that title only to be topped by Las Vegas, where close to 60 people have been confirmed dead, over 500 injured and the numbers only growing as time passes. We hear the news and immediately take to our social media feeds to express shock, condolences and of course “thoughts and prayers.” A #PrayFor hashtag seems to trend more often than news about a Kardashian. There are also the many posts flooding newsfeeds claiming that enough is enough, but is posting this sentiment to an echo chamber of like-minded peers on Facebook enough? No. Therefore, in times of crisis and despair, I like to organize my thought and pave a constructive path forward. Sadly, my rage only allows me to articulate my opinions and suggestions in listicle form right now, so that I prevent myself from a lengthy, profanity-laced digression in essay form. I encourage you and your NRA-voter relative to follow along with me as I go through the exercise of trying to make sense of these acts of terror. Which brings me to my first point:
1. Let it be known that terrorism is terrorism no matter your skin tone or religion.
This morning as I frantically texted friends in Vegas and scanned news articles to get up to speed, I saw the term “no ties to terrorism” repeatedly. What they should have said is perhaps, no ties to ISIS. Terrorism and ISIS are not and should not be seen as synonyms. “Lone gunman” seems to be the euphemism of choice when we want to make excuses for a white, American terrorist shooting up a school, church or now, concert. Any attempt to mass-murder civilians is terrorism. Surely we can agree that mowing down hordes of innocent people at a concert is terrorism. That is what we immediately called the attacks in Paris and Manchester long before any ties to ISIS were confirmed, but why? The only difference between those and Vegas is that those gunmen looked like what media and the US Government target as ‘terrorists,’ not a man in his 60s with a Caucasian/Christian-sounding name checking into a casino. The acts were the same and innocent blood was shed, so call him what he is. A terrorist.
2. Stop acting shocked. We shouldn’t be at this rate
On average, there is a mass shooting (4+ victims) every day in the United States. The Las Vegas Police said that they felt that there was no way to prevent this and we all stand around slack-jawed like shootings aren’t part of our daily reality. Most never make it past the local six o’clock news, but they are commonplace. The US greatly outpaces it’s socioeconomic, developed peers in gun deaths. Many of these countries struggle with extremism, racism, class warfare and inequality as much, if not more than the US. The only difference is that access to guns is extremely limited in places like the UK and Germany, that have a tiny fraction of the gun deaths and even less stats of mass shootings. Yes, there is other violence and we are not saying that they are immune to gun deaths but it’s hard to deny that countries with less guns have less gun-related deaths. The same goes for states with less guns/harsher restrictions.
3. Know that Hashtags and FB profile pic frames won’t help
Not much needs to be said on this point, other than the fact that I think we are all sick of opening social media to find all the posts swathed in heart/city frames, pictures prayers, and viral hashtags. It’s the laziest form of empathy but we all do it since we feel powerless and at a loss at what else to do. I’m not asking you to stop, but I am asking you to realize that it will never change the situation, especially since it will be eclipsed by tomorrow’s tragedy/movement/outrage and its corresponding hashtags.
4. Fear or vigilantism won’t help either
Again, not much to be said but it needs to be said. Locking yourself in a basement or moving to the middle of nowhere, won’t help. Terror wins when we cease to live our lives. Also, seeing that there have been mass shootings in my sleepy hometown in Ohio, pretty much no place is 100% safe until we get this situation under control. We need to tackle the root of the issue (unemployment, anger, mental illness, poverty, political extremism, etc.) AND the access to weapons that are designer to efficiently kill many people quickly.
I will not let tragedy desensitize me into complacency. We must grieve, but then we must fight.
5. What can help? Action, pressure, and a whole lot of money.
This is one time to truly emulate the NRA. It’s been said but rarely do I see anyone attempting to mimic the Beltway-bosses of gun and Big-Pharma lobbies. It all starts with a PAC- a bankroll to keep legislators in line. Seriously, go to established organizations like Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown, right now and give them money. We need organizations who understand the wheeling and dealing in DC and enough money for high-paid lobbyists, and coffers to steer elections.
Also, on a personal level you can feel a lot better by taking actions to improve your own lives. Every time a tragedy strikes, we all vow to live life to the fullest, take that trip, take that risk and/or appreciate those around us. A day later, we get caught up in the usual grind and slip into old habits and mediocre happiness. Make a plan on things you want to do or change, give yourself a timeline and hold yourself accountable.
6. Your (friend/relative/coworker) has “heard it all” and still feels we all need guns to protect ourselves from the government and other “bad guys with guns”
This, of course, is the trickiest part since it’s very difficult to discuss without emotions combusting almost immediately but let me take out these two legs they are standing on like I am Tonya Harding. First off, the government in many ways can be ‘out to get us” but truly I feel that is done with the tax code and laws, not attempted murder. But, if for some reason the US Government felt compelled to go after someone with force, it’s too late to attempt to outgun them. No matter what sort of militia arsenal you have in a shed, the Military Industrial Complex has tanks and stealth bombers, and if you have gotten to the point that the US thinks you are a big enough threat/nuisance to assassinate you, I doubt they will give up until you are dead.
Secondly, the ‘good guy with a gun’ theory has been proven to be useless time and again and in some cases, can escalate a situation. If the festival in Las Vegas was filled with “good guys with guns,” would they have been able to take down a shooter on the 32nd floor? No. They would have probably just caught more innocent lives in the crossfire. This is to me plainly obvious, but somehow even people whom I respect and know are intelligent just fought me on this issue, which has left me questioning if they could ever truly understand me as a person. I mean, isn’t this just squarely logical?
Usually, when faced with the most irrefutable points like “the government has more guns than you,” it’s time to pivot to the next favorite hot-button phrase: Liberals are trying to take away my guns and my God-given right to protect myself or hunt.
7. No, Liberals are not just Communist killjoys who want to take all your guns away and replace them with yoga mats. (Also, safety should not be a vilified, partisan issue)
I am a New York liberal who has enjoyed going to gun ranges. I would also assume that myself and any of my highly-educated, responsible friends could manage to own any number of guns without incident and with the proper safety precautions. The need for regulations aren’t for the law-abiding citizen, but like all laws, those who abide still must be inconvenienced to stop those who don’t. Most people aren’t bringing weapons or shoe-bombs on board, but we all must strip for TSA. Is it a pain in the ass and feel like an infringement on my freedoms and personal space? Sure. But is it worth it for the greater good? Yes.
So, if you are truly just a law-abiding, Constitution-loving American, why not tolerate a few regulations? We grossly over-regulate substantially less dangerous things every day, yet I don’t see as many people fervently screaming about how appalling FDA-regulations, trans-fats bans or traffic laws are on his/her personal freedoms.
Love to hunt? Great! So does my cousin. You don’t need an assault rifle to kill a buck. Want the thrill of firing an assault rifle? Great! Join the army OR go to a licensed range where you can fire any kind of gun you want and safely return it to the management’s lockers when you are done.
Want to protect yourself and loved ones from intruders/the government/aliens/etc.? Great! Get educated, licensed and background checked. I know you want your guns, but you also want your car and I don’t see you picketing the DMV for not allowing you to drive whatever class vehicle you want, however you want, without taking the driver’s test first. Again, I find these points to be just logical facts, especially when juxtaposed with other commonly-accepted laws of the land.
This is NOT partisan.
This is a matter of right and wrong. Yes, maybe gun regulations won’t stop ALL gun violence, but why wouldn’t you at least TRY something if it could have saved one of these people from coming home from their Vegas vacation in a body bag?
Again, laws don’t stop all drunk driving deaths but the legal crackdown, seatbelts and safety regulations has seen improved results. The opioid crisis kills roughly the same number of Americans as guns each year and you see legislative support from all sides of the political spectrum to attempt to curb these senseless deaths. It’s not seen as a highly-partisan wedge issue. I don’t see throngs of folks taking to Twitter to say “drugs don’t kill people, people kill themselves” or junkies will get drugs if they want anyways, laws won’t stop them, so why try? If you are saying that, perhaps you lack the empathy or moral compass to ever be convinced otherwise and probably stopped reading this ages ago.
In conclusion, I refuse to be intimidated by deniers. I will not let terrorism paralyze me with fear and I will not let tragedy desensitize me into complacency. We must grieve, but then we must fight. Not just with the tired old marches and change.org petitions but with money and lobbyists like our opponents have used to conquer our side for decades.