When Is It the Right Time?

Terry H. Schwadron

Oct. 2, 2017

Gunfire and mass murder, once again.

Though motives were unknown, the story seems pretty simply told: A single 64-year-old white man shot up to a dozen sniper rifles and altered-automatic assault weapons through two windows on a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel into 22,000 people gathered for a concert below, killing 59 and wounding hundreds before apparently killing himself.

In the hours of television coverage, useful information grew, but the basics remained the same. The shooter was a non-political “madman” who seemed to have a thought-through plan to implement, with lots more guns and ammunition stored at home. At one point ISIS tried to take credit for the event, but there was no evidence to suggest even the notion of a link.

But it is never only about one individual gunman, is it? Surely, we need to grieve first, show care, and treat the victims. But then there are questions for which there is no good time.

So, once again, the obvious query is why Americans can’t bring ourselves to restrict guns — semi-automated assault rifles, at least, available openly, and legally cleared to carry in states like Nevada? Why is it that we need more guns than people in this country? You don’t even need to aim if you’re using assault weapons capable of 90-plus shots per minute at a crowd, even a few football fields’ distance away. Assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition are not about sport and hunting.

But then there is the official reaction — not the police response in Las Vegas, where quick actions by first responders and citizens alike kept the situation from becoming worse. President Trump read a solemn statement calling the shootings “pure evil,” but, as in other such situations, avoided calling this incident what it was — domestic terrorism. Terrorist labels in Trump’s mind seem to be reserved for radical Islamists. And the White House later added that this was not the day for talking guns.

That there was no explanation for the shooting simply seemed to make it worse. This could happen to any of us, in any gathering. Just as with innocent youngsters and teachers in Newtown, Conn., just as on a street corner in San Bernardino, or a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., or the campus at Virginia Tech. We look for external explanations from the world of politics and public affairs as if that would help provide a context for such behavior. But the truth is, it doesn’t.

The shooting happened amid other events, of course. The violence has become ingrained in our culture.

Congress warmly welcomed back Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who miraculously had survived a gun attack on a practice baseball field; in a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday night, Scalise described his ordeal, the madness of another shooter and Scalise’s own inner-most thoughts feeling, but the congressman never mentioned the obvious — the availability of guns. In the areas affected by hurricanes, it took just a few days of shortages to start hearing reports of gun-toting looters. In Chicago, there were more gun shootings this last weekend — as there will be next weekend. Network television debuted an entertainment show on Sunday that highlighted crowd sourcing as a means for crime-fighting that seemed an endorsement of vigilantism. Indeed, for a time, internet trolls misidentified the Las Vegas shooter last night, based on the naming of a friend of the shooter.

The President stood up solemnly and denounced evil, but never mentions weaponry. Isn’t there a connection to be made here? Is there only the NRA argument the best way to counter bad guys with guns is “good guys” with guns?

By contrast, for example, former President Barack Obama tweeted out sympathies for “another senseless tragedy,” but recall that his failure to pass significant reforms one of the “greatest frustrations” of his presidency. And that position drew dripping hatred for Obama from at least half the country.

Hillary Clinton tweeted, “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get,” she tweeted, adding: “Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.” Democratic senators from Connecticut called for a new round of gun control measures.

For the record, the NRA’s website did not mention Las Vegas.

It turns out that Nevada does not limit the numbers of guns owned, the type of guns owned, does not even require training for gun ownership. Can’t we just say that common sense insists that is simply nuts.

Somehow, Trump managed to promise a quick visit to meet the families and thank first responders. Good thing the shooting didn’t take place in Puerto Rico.



Journalist, musician, community volunteer