I got the news in the middle of the night, after waking up from a fitful sleep to sit at my computer for a few minutes. My heart sank. My first thoughts were of the people in that crowd and how that 20 minutes ended the lives of so many and changed the lives of thousands of others.
My second thought was of a friend of mine from Fort Worth who had written just hours earlier to say she couldn’t believe she was in Las Vegas. Then I thought of two friends who helped build the club where the shooter posted up and of another Fort Worth friend, who owns three cupcake stores on the strip. Were they safe? Had they been at the Route 91 Harvest festival? Were they walking on the street and got caught in the stampede?
I’ve heard from only two of them. The one who had just landed in Vegas was next door when the shooting happened and saw the people running – she’s shaken up but OK. The cupcake woman is OK, too. I have yet to hear from the friends who worked on Mandalay Bay.
All of us are asking why this happened. We’re not likely to get an answer. The police and FBI say killer Stephen Paddock had an absolutely clean record. One of the gun dealers who sold Paddock some of the weapons in his hotel room said Paddock seemed perfectly normal to him. Paddock himself can’t answer because the SWAT team that burst into his room said he was already dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. And he apparently left no notes to explain why he did what he did.
He certainly didn’t just snap. This was well thought out, a planned action. Why?
As in Nevada, here in Texas open carry is permitted. Supporters say that you need a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. That would not have helped in this case. It might help sometimes. The owner of the gas station on the corner is always strapped because he is determined not to get robbed again. Understandable.
A little less understandable are the customers at the Walmart and HEB in Burleson walking around with semi-automatics hanging from their shoulders. It’s the law, and I’ll live with it, but I would never imagine any of these guys saving anyone from anything. In fact, I actually get the heck out of any aisle they’re in because I don’t want to get caught in the line of fire of anyone who thinks he’s going to be a hero.
While we may never know the “why” of Paddock’s hellish rampage, we do know the “how.” And the how involves guns. His weapons didn’t choose to kill those people, but they sure helped him do it. So what do we do now? Nobody wants to take guns away from American citizens, but there must be some room for making changes in our system to see that the future Paddocks of the world do not get their hands on weapons that can do so much destruction so quickly. Do we bother to close the “gun show” loophole? Do we make it illegal to manufacture or sell semi-automatics that can be easily converted to full automatics? Do we just put our heads in the sand until the next mass shooting or the one after that? That’s what we have been doing. The president’s spokesperson said it’s “premature” to discuss guns. Trump himself said, “We’ll get around” to discussing guns at some point in the indeterminate future. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on a bill this week that would legalize silencers.
Not good enough. I don’t know what’s good enough, but anything would be better than keeping our heads in the sand or waiting until later to even broach the subject.