The notifications on my phone got more and more obscene as I scroll through them upon waking that morning.
‘Multiple casualties as Las Vegas Police hunt ‘active shooter’ at Mandalay Bay casino country music festival.’ — yesterday, 23:32.
‘At least two people dead and 24 injured after shooting at Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas’ — latest updates, 00:16.
‘Death toll rises to 20 in Las Vegas shooting at Mandalay Bay casino with over 100 injured, say police’ — latest updates, 01:40.
‘Death toll rises to 50 in Las Vegas shooting as police name suspect’ — latest updates, 3h ago.
As I typed at 7 a.m. Pacific, ‘at least 50 dead, 400 injured after mass shooting in Las Vegas.’ The reports said a man opened fire from the 32nd floor of the hotel into the crowd below like some sort of deranged sniper.
It is impossible to imagine the fear, panic and horror at the scene. The images and phone camera footage are horrifying and numbing.
What does someone living in the United States do when this happens? I have hugged my daughter, but that is for me more than her: she is three, watching Dino Dana on Amazon TV.
I moved with my family to the United States more or less exactly three years ago, in September 2014. Since we have been here, there have been two previous mass shootings: Orlando, last year, where 50 people were killed and 53 injured, and San Bernardino, with 14 killed and 21 injured. You don’t have to go back far to reach Newtown, 27 killed or Aurora, 12. If you cannot remember, Newtown was the one where all the children were killed, and Aurora was the one in the cinema. Both were in 2012. I am sure there aren’t even reliable figures for the number of people actually killed by firearms since we arrived.
When you live outside of the United States looking in from the gun-free environment of Western Europe, you see these events and think how horrible and thank yourself for not living in America. But now we live here, and that really changes things. Only last week, someone we know really quite well shot and killed an intruder in his house, here in Southern California. Most of the people we know have a gun in the house. In my experience, Americans are mostly immune to any criticism on their gun ownership. The stock rebuttal is that the person is at fault, not the weapon. Or they bring up their rights under the Constitution, or they appeal to the need for self-protection in a land full of guns. The last one, I can almost see, but then immediately recoil from. I don’t know how to use a gun, and I definitely don’t want to shoot anyone.
I don’t doubt that this latest horrific, tragic mass-murder will provoke a response from the political class. There will be those that suggest debating the issues around gun ownership; tightening up the application process a tiny bit, maybe limiting the bullet capacity of the magazines. I also don’t doubt that the single issue lobby group that is the National Rifle Association will be turning the thumbscrews on those same Senators and members of Congress to do nothing. And of course, the current President is a repeated, vocal supporter of gun ownership rights. I cannot imagine anything will change. But I will write to my Senators and member of Congress again to ask them what they are doing about gun control. It seems to be all you can do, and it is pathetic.
(Flickr / Elvert Barnes)
Turning back to Las Vegas, my heart bleeds for the hundreds of people shot, killed, and injured and the countless thousands of relatives and friends who have woken up this morning to the same barrage of awful notifications. Notifications that someone they love has been killed by a gun.🔷