don’t care whether the evil maniac who slaughtered at least 59 people in Las Vegas was a Muslim or a Christian, a Democrat or a Republican, a bigot or a terrorist.
I don’t care whether you call what he did — the worst mass shooting in American history — a terror attack or an act of radical Islamic terrorism or a massacre or a hate crime.
What I care about is this: Without legally purchased military-style rifles, he would’ve just been a guy sitting in a hotel room.
Those first three paragraphs are almost exactly what I wrote on June 16, 2016, after 49 people were gunned down in an Orlando gay bar. Only a few things changed: the number killed, which has gone up; the location of the shooting; “rifle” to “rifles” because this shooter had several; and where the shooter was located — a hotel room instead of a bar.
I’m sure at some point, in a month or a year or two years, I’ll be able to write those same three paragraphs again, with minor changes to update the details of the new worst mass shooting in American history. And that’s because the only thing more consistent than mass shootings is our unwillingness to learn anything from such tragedies.
Already we’ve been told the attack in Las Vegas, which also left more than 500 people at an outdoor concert injured, was an act of pure evil, and that evil can’t be legislated. Already we’ve been told it’s too soon to talk about gun control. Already we’ve been instructed that the only appropriate response, now and forever, is to send thoughts and prayers.
I have to imagine that God, at this point in America’s violent history, has heard enough prayers and is waiting for some to realize that humans were given brains and common sense with the expectation that those things would come in handy. Maybe God is wondering why we keep praying and don’t start using our heads.
We’ll learn more in the days to come about Stephen Craig Paddock, the 64-year-old Nevadan who, from the 32nd-floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, opened fire on a crowd at an outdoor country music concert. We’ll learn where and how he got the guns — as many as 10, according to authorities — and whether he modified any of them from semi-automatic to fully automatic, increasing the speed with which he could murder innocents.
We’ll learn what drove him, though as Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday: “I can’t get inside the mind of a psychopath.”
We’ll hear devastating stories of the victims and their families and uplifting stories of the bravery and compassion of first responders.
And, if form holds, time will pass and the Las Vegas shooting — the now-worst mass shooting in American history — will become an entry on Wikipedia and an event we remember when its anniversary comes around, at least until something worse takes its place.
President Donald Trump said: “We pray for the entire nation to find unity and peace, and we pray for the day when evil is banished and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear.”
Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy released a statement saying: “These are times when we turn to God trying to understand how such inhuman acts can happen.”
The world has never found a way to banish evil, and I think we have some clues as to how such inhuman acts can happen.
According to data collected by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, in the first nine months of this year, there have been 271 mass shootings, meaning four or more people shot in a single event, not including the shooter; 11,572 gun deaths; and 2,971 children or teenagers shot.
Tighter gun control, on its own, is not the answer. Anyone who carries a bag of guns into a casino hotel room and opens fire on a crowd of concertgoers clearly has a mental health issue that has gone untreated.
We’re never going to find a magnet big enough to pull all the guns in the country up, and we’ll never be able to make it impossible for a lunatic to get hold of guns and take innocent lives.
But that’s no reason to fall back on prayers and simply hope for an explanation from God. There are steps we can take, on guns and on mental health, and we talk and we talk and we scream and we scream and nothing ever gets done.
In the column following the Orlando massacre, I wrote: “Every time there’s a mass shooting in this country — and it’s getting to be a bit too frequent, wouldn’t you say? — one group of Americans points out that the common denominator in these tragedies is the device that sends the bullets into people’s bodies and another group clutches their pocket Constitutions to their chests and cries, ‘Tyranny!’ ”
I’ll be able to repeat that one again as well.
America is unique in its gun violence problem. And surely Americans have the brains and common sense to sensibly address that problem.
Why we can’t — or won’t — is something I imagine even God doesn’t quite understand.