Tragedy in Las Vegas
The horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas that took the lives of 58 innocent concertgoers and wounded about 500 will likely change Nevada and impact our lives forever. Our thoughts and prayers go with the victims and their families.
No one knows why Stephen Paddock, the shooter, planned and carried out his evil project. He had homes in Mesquite and Reno and was a high roller in several casinos, betting thousands a hand. He had a relationship with a former hostess at the Atlantis casino but otherwise was a loner.
The heroism of individuals caught up in the shooter’s death trap reveals another side of Nevada, the courage and compassion of the people who live and work amidst the glitter and greed. Las Vegas Metro distinguished itself from other mass shooting incidents by the officers’ willingness to run toward the shots rather than establish a safe perimeter for themselves as police have done in earlier incidents. The unarmed private security guard Jesus Campos, whose response to an alarm distracted the shooter—who then killed himself—deserves our sincere thanks.
But most of all we celebrate the courage and bravery of the ordinary people, both at the concert and living in Las Vegas, who helped each other through this ordeal. The Cajun Navy may be in the docks but the Cajun Army was mobilized as people risked their lives to load the wounded into pickup trucks and cabs to take them to the hospital. Men shielded their loved ones with their bodies or helped women and children climb fences to escape, sometimes paying with their lives. The doctors and hospital staff, the interns who volunteered all night, the many who donated blood show how compassionate and dedicated Nevadans are.
I cannot say the same thing about the politicians who rushed to exploit the tragedy with the same irrelevant policy proposals that have been tried and failed before. Hillary Clinton made a fool of herself by ignorantly coming out against a proposed law that would legalize noise suppressors. The shooter’s weapons would still have been heard with suppressors and the rapid firing enabled by the bump stocks would likely have generated enough heat to melt them.
The notorious bump stocks are manufactured by a small company in Texas and are used by a handful of enthusiasts who make YouTube videos. Because the shooter used them, they will no doubt be banned to satisfy the gun controllers, and that will likely pass constitutional muster.
What we need are not more mandates and bans but more ideas about how to encourage a more positive gun culture. Countries with high gun ownership and low rates of gun crimes like Switzerland, Israel and Finland all incorporate gun ownership with civil defense. Despite the constant claims of government that they are here to protect us, the state has no legal obligation to protect us individually. A system of volunteer civil defense, aside from the police and national guard, would be one way of encouraging responsible gun ownership. Our schools should abandon their zero tolerance of guns and instead promote organized gun safety and responsibility activities.
Statistician Leah Libresco, in a recent Washington Post article, wrote that she used to support gun control but, since the numbers don’t add up, now supports a harm reduction strategy to reduce the gun deaths of the most vulnerable. Of the 30,000 annual gun deaths, two-thirds are white male seniors who commit suicide. Young adult males and abused women make up most of the final third. Libresco advocates special outreach and protections targeted to reduce these deaths. Law abiding, middle-class gun owners should be left alone.