My thoughts: The Las Vegas Shooting

My city has become the setting of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which -- of course -- has sparked the tired old "gun rights" debate among those who don't even live here. And -- of course -- conspiracy theorists have already started in with their far-out questions and speculations. People who have never even been to the state of Nevada, or whose only experiences involve quick Vegas trips, all have their opinions.

Bodies haven't even been put to rest, and the internet is lit up with discussion about "what could have been," and "this is who/what we should blame."

Guns are to blame!

Mental illness is to blame!

Alt-right ideology is to blame!

Racism is to blame!

This wouldn't have happened if (insert scenario here)


Nearly 60 people are dead. Five hundred more people are injured. Innocent people, who were only enjoying a concert, were targeted by someone with murder in his heart. At this time there is no known motive -- and for all we know, a motive may never be revealed.

My heart goes out to all of the victims and their families
The night before the shooting, my husband and I were driving through the California desert, coming back from our anniversary trip on the coast. We were stuck behind a caravan of vehicles on the long stretch of desolate highway. These were folks driving from Bakersfield to Las Vegas to attend the Route 91 festival. We knew this, because the back windows of their vehicles were painted with the words "Route 91 Caravan." These were people who were excited to be traveling, en masse, to an increasingly popular country music fest. At the time I was annoyed that traffic had slowed (we had been driving for close to six hours at this point), and I was a little more irritated when a car accident slowed us down further.

These annoyances mean nothing now.

Those people were all going to have fun in my city. And instead of enjoying themselves, they became victims of a mass shooting. I do hope that the people in that caravan made it out of town safe and unharmed, but news reports have shared that some of the deceased victims were from Bakersfield. My heart goes out to all of the victims and their families. I feel connected with them, not only because Vegas is my home, but because -- for a brief time -- I shared the road with possible victims in their final hours of life, all of us blissfully unaware of what was to come. I was on a high from my anniversary trip, looking forward to getting home and sleeping in my own bed. They were high on excitement, looking forward to seeing Jason Aldean and other performances. None of us had any idea of what was to follow, nor could we imagine something so horrifying.

People take these moments in life for granted -- the simple moments, like a slower-than-usual drive through the desert, listening to music, watching the sunset in the rear-view mirror. These moments can be snatched from you in the blink of an eye, in situations during which we have absolutely no control. One moment you're driving to Las Vegas with your friends, and the next moment you could be down on the ground, trying to shield yourself from a deluge of bullets. Life is scary and unfair.

I'm a crime writer, and a controversial one at that
So I understand the allure of speculating about this incident, just like with any other violent incident that happens in the world. I understand the desire to piece together the missing pieces, and I understand the desire to build a profile of the accused shooter. However, there just aren't any facts out there right now; Just a bunch of speculation and misinformation. People just don't want to wait for investigative details to make their way to the public. The barrels of Stephen Paddock's guns were still smoking and social media "sleuths" were already demanding answers. It's only been a couple of days, and there are already countless amateur video clips making rounds, pointing out presumed "holes" and "inconsistencies" in the case.

It's almost as if the public expects things to unfold neatly, like an hour long episode of their favorite crime drama show (she said sarcastically).

Again, I'm going to say that I love healthy speculation -- but it has to be reasonable. With so little known about the LV shooter, there's really not much on which to speculate. However, for people who aren't familiar with Las Vegas or Mesquite, Nevada, there is plenty to say, I suppose. It also seems that people who aren't familiar with the architecture on "The Strip" have a lot to say.

Look, there's only one way to address a conspiracy theory: You don't. 

There's only one way to argue with a conspiracy theorist: You don't. 

These people don't operate on reason or logic, and they never will. With every piece of evidence used to debunk a crazy theory, these people will produce 40+ pieces of anecdotal evidence to counter it. These are the types of people who deny that the Holocaust happened, even when stared in the face by a concentration camp survivor, stamped with a serial code like a product in a factory. These people could be face to face with every dead body, every single deceased victim of a mass shooting, and they would still find ways to argue that the incident never even took place, or that it was "staged," or insert whatever unprovable theory you can imagine (or not imagine for that matter). Again, these people don't operate on reason or logic, and arguing with them is an absolute waste of time. It may be hurtful or anger-inducing to see these people publicly speculate about far-out things that shame the memories of murder victims, but giving them more attention than they deserve just wastes everyone's time.

Who do we blame? 
Man, am I tired of this. Every single time there is a mass shooting, everyone goes full political. Sometimes mass shootings aren't fueled by politics, but every single mass shooting fuels political conflict. Lately, everyone wants to make every big crime event about political discord. In this particular shooting, we don't know a motive. Stephen Paddock had no political affiliation, even though some people on social media are spreading the very false story that he was a Democrat. Equally false are the claims made by others that he was a Republican. Paddock never registered to vote. He was politically unaffiliated and lived a very private life. His political views, at this time, are not known.

Nonetheless, people are going to blame whichever political side they oppose. I'm not saying it's not easy to speculate, because it absolutely is, but speculation without foundation is pointless. So it all just comes out sounding like politically biased bullshit, and I don't have time for that when my city is trying to heal from this bout of horrifying violence.

I'm also sick of hearing about mental illness in this whole dialogue surrounding the shooting. There are lots of mentally ill people out there who don't go on murderous rampages -- just as there are plenty of gun owners who also don't go around killing people. The problem, in my opinion, doesn't lie in guns or mental illness.

Blame ideology, fear and poor legislation
Guns are deeply rooted in American culture, and for the most part (in my opinion) that culture is based a lot in fear. When I see someone who is personally connected to gun ownership, someone who collects countless weapons and who seems obsessed with the entire concept of the 2nd Amendment, I see someone who is full of fear. I see someone who legitimately believes that they need to own all these guns in order to rise against a corrupt government that may eventually try to come and take said guns away. These people feel so threatened that a government may try to take guns, that they go out and collect more guns.

I'm not talking about pistols and hunting rifles. These people collect assault rifles and attachments that modify the firing rates of these firearms. These people believe that they need weapons of mass murder to fight on our soil against our own military. Granted, most of the people who voluntarily join our military believe in the same concept, so I guess these folks believe they're stocking up on guns so they can fight each other

This is the fear that I am talking about. The fear that is so deeply ingrained in certain individuals that they latch onto this ideological belief that they need to have fully and semi automatic weapons that are designed to mow down multiple targets.

Organizations like the NRA only inflame that collective fear, while pushing to make dangerous weapons easily accessible to people like Stephen Paddock. Politicians who support the NRA and who take funds from this organization, do nothing to help the problem either.

The problem, again, isn't in gun ownership itself. The problem is in the ease of access to the types of weapons that are most commonly used in mass shootings. The problem is in the availability of modifications that turn semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons. The problem is in being permissive of the fear that drives people to rush out and collect these weapons and mods. While everyone argues about banning guns and prohibiting the "mentally ill" from owning weapons, they're only further contributing to the actual problem: Fear. They're expressing their own fear and confusion, while ignoring that this very fear and confusion manifests itself very dangerously in certain people who have certain ideological beliefs.

I'm not saying that a solution for our obvious "gun" problems exists. But targeting the source of the problem may be a start. The ideologies surrounding gun ownership will always exist, and it needs to be recognized that this is precisely why assault rifles and similar weapons shouldn't be in the hands of civilians. The 2nd Amendment doesn't assure the right to own weapons of mass murder. The 2nd Amendment doesn't guarantee the right to own weapons that can mow down 500+ people. The sooner we start legislating against the ownership of these particular weapons, the sooner these types of mass shooting events will decrease in frequency.

And I can already see the arguments being typed out before I even finish this post: 
"Terrorists have used vans and knives and backpack bombs to kill large numbers of people!"

To which I reply, in advance: 
There are countless ways to kill people. People have been killing each other for centuries, and people will always kill each other. Just because this is true, doesn't mean we need to continue making it easy for them. Just because murder will always exist, along with the desire to commit mass murder, doesn't mean we need to serve the implements of mass murder to the public.

It's like we have some kind of "honor system" with people: We allow you to obtain unnecessarily violent weapons, which serve no real need beyond killing multiple human beings, and then we just trust that you won't -- you know -- kill multiple human beings. It's illogical, and to be completely honest it's detrimental to the progress of our society.


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