"Thoughts and Prayers" : A reflection on the Las Vegas Terrorist Attack
Yesterday Morning I woke up to a text from Adam, Uncharted’s Founder, asking if I’d like to write a story about Vegas. Naturally, my first assumptions were something obviously extreme must’ve happened for it to be cryptically mentioned in a group text before most of us had even opened our eyes. But there it was. After typing the letters “L” and “A” in the browser, google quickly auto filled what I’d been blindly searching for early that morning. Headlines that described the worst mass shooting in U.S history cascaded the page.
If you have yet to be bombarded by news of this for some odd reason, here is the quick rundown: around10 PM Sunday PCT, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 country music concert goers from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. As of writing this piece, 59 people have been killed and over 500 people have been injured as a result of the attack. The terrorist, Stephen Paddock, killed himself before being apprehended by a SWAT team. There is no known motive or any known ties to international terrorist organizations, although ISIS and militant ANTIFA groups have attempted to take responsibility. The hotel room that the shooter was staying in contained at least 23 guns, several of which were high-powered rifles capable of penetrating police armor; several high-capacity magazines; and explosives. An additional 19 firearms were found at the terrorists home in Mesquite, Nevada.
Full disclosure: I am biased on this issue. I lost my 20-year old brother to a gun in 2015. I have been on a particular side of this topic. So this does sting for me personally. Looking at the situation continue is as frustrating as it is heartbreaking. That’s why seeing the words “don’t politicize a tragedy” inspire a special kind of rage.
It should be lost on no one that the previous worst mass shooting in history occurred just last year in Orlando with 49 people killed and 52 injured at Pulse Nightclub. A lot of the same things are being said now by the same people. While this may be the worst tragedy in our country’s history the numb feeling after something like this happening is just as predictable and somber as the last time we lost dozens of Americans. We have the same debates about gun control, gun rights, how this keeps happening, only for there to ultimately be no action.
Although the added bit of personal trauma may inspire this rage, it is primarily that these statements regarding “thoughts and prayers” are demonstrably dismissive of the actual victims and the issue at hand while appearing to be sympathetic to those same victims. Simultaneously attempting to gain the moral high ground and silence any discussion, so that no actual change is made. So as long as our tab for mass shootings continues to look like the Guinness book of records, we need to keep discussing it.
While I can claim to know the moral intentions of those who I disagree with, I will admit I know that many of these statements are not made consciously with the intention of appearing to care more. Many genuinely don’t see this as a time for problem-solving and just as a time for grieving. Which is perfectly fine. I, however, have mourned, cried, and picked myself up enough times to see to skip the mourning and figure out the best way to solve this crisis.
Over 15 years ago, after the 9/11 attacks, many, appropriately, didn’t feel the need to discuss foreign policy. After such an unprecedented attack on the US, most just wanted to retreat and mourn the loss of their loved ones. Then, also appropriately, the nation wanted those responsible to be held accountable for their actions. Why? Because the attack wasn’t an act of nature. Thousands of people were killed at the hands of another and we responded appropriately. This same mentality should be applied to incidents of domestic terrorism like the one that took place in Las Vegas.
Will the changes that we attempt to make end gun violence? Probably not completely. But it would be foolish to suggest that nothing could be done.
And if there really is nothing that can be done, people that favor no change to existing laws should admit this up front. Congressmen and women who vote down any gun control bill should either come up with another solution to the problem, or they should admit that this is the country they live in. If “thoughts and prayers” are the best we can do for the families of the victims of atrocities, let the people who voted for you know that. Your support probably won’t drop too much because the same people who voted for you for your stance on gun most like feel that prayer is an effective tangible way of solving life problems.
We could sit here and list out the feasible ways to enact gun control while keeping responsible citizens armed but instead of writing a policy paper or drafting a bill to present on the house floor, let’s try something if you're on the other side of this issue. Instead of thinking about these discussions as political, look at them as family based. Everyone who is killed in these belongs to a family, a set of friends, or an entire community. Instead of writing this off as an unfortunate tragedy, think about how the families feel and what they may want. Perhaps some of them after this will still hold the second amendment in high regard. None of them would want their loss to be in vain.
This isn’t a normal thing. This does not happen in other countries. We need to handle this issue with a life-or-death urgency because in this case it actually is.