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Up until three years ago I had lived four years in Vegas.. worked as a security guard on the Vegas Strip. So I have a connection to the geography of the tragic event. But besides my personal connection it’s almost predictable how things are going to unfold from here.
As of this writing there’s 60+ dead, some 400 injured, which that in itself is pretty much clogging up the emergency rooms everywhere in the city. The “suspected” gunman, a white male, 64 year old Mesquite, Nevada resident Stephen Paddock, fired from the 32 floor of the Mandalay Hotel on the Vegas Strip.. down and across the street to a Country western music concert, into a crowd of 22,000 concert goers (a relatively smaller event by Vegas standards). He ended up shooting himself as Vegas police were about to enter his room. There were a collection of weapons in the room, some reporting ten, including .233 and .308 calibers.
Private video has audio suggesting very obviously the shooter was using a fully automatic weapon… meaning in common terms, it was a “machine gun”.. not a semi-automatic weapon. You could easily hear the bursts followed by about a 20 second pause, presumably to reload another 50 or 100 round magazine, then he resumes shooting. This sequence of shooting was repeated. There is no official time of the duration of the shooting although it seems a common witness time is in the 10-15 minute duration; a long time when you are ducking bullets from a automatic weapon.
The shooter apparently had no police record, no reason to be on anyone’s radar or watch lists. Likely as police secure evidence from his home in Mesquite we will learn more of what led to him to tripping out. But as of right now there is no link to terrorist groups or philosophy. He had a pilot’s license.. which is unique.
My personal guess?
Interestingly this is almost a “perfect storm” of a complete mental health issue; nothing racial can be drawn from the shooter. He owns a bunch of weapons obviously. At least one is a fully auto assault rifle, which he either converted illegally from semi-auto or he legally had licensed as Nevada allows for federally registered “machine guns” through ATF. His home that was searched by police is a newer single-family home, newer housing area.. a retirement community “55 and older”. The profile is fairly benign.. he’s not low income poor, doesn’t live in some dilapidated residence, not on a watch list… not even a traffic violation.
Given his weaponry and that he’s white and his age, my guess is that he may have been of right wing politics.. BUT.. I have no idea if his rage was because of his political views. It’s rare when politics is NOT a reason for this kind of rage. I do fear they may reveal some level of a political component that illustrates our nation’s divisiveness gone berserk. I do hope sincerely that this was not some clown “shooting into a bunch of sinful liberals”. But we do know there’s likely a mental health component wherever it falls.
There will be the parade of witnesses recounting their horrific stories of fear and chaos. There will be the memorials of those who died.. the coverage of funerals. There will be the analysis of the shooter.. what made him do what he did.. and most certainly his political motivations. The previous stereotypes of a mass shooter will be totally discounted as this shooter will not fit the profile.
Then there will be the inevitable trek into the Second Amendment and calls for better gun control. This particular tragedy will focus on “machine guns” because I would guess this guy had a properly purchased and registered fully automatic weapon; something every “patriot” needs to make sure our government “stays in line”.
There might be some discussion about mental health; trying to explore how no one saw the signs, saw this coming early enough to give an alarm. We will be searching for something, someone, some politics, to blame for all this.. and there will likely be nothing solid.
I found myself reflecting on the Austin Texas University Tower shooting in 1966. He killed 15 people (interestingly, one died of lingering injuries in 2001, 30+ years later, and they then ruled his death a homicide). Sticking in my head about that tragedy was that as soon as Charles Whitman started shooting, Texans driving pickups with their rifles on gun racks stopped and returned fire before the police showed up on the scene. Something you’d never see in Chicago where I was a high school sophomore at the time.
The complete story is here….
(Kurt Russell played Whitman in a 1975 TV movie)
My point in this reflection it that even if there were armed citizens in that crowd of concert goers they would not have had any weapon to reach across the street and up 32 floors to Mandalay Bay.
I gave up thinking Americans would get together enough to assign some level of gun control after Sandy Hook and the shooting deaths of 20 children. Now.. I am not a huge proponent of gun control, but I certainly do not agree where even the thought of it threatens the Second Amendment. In other words, unlike the right wing conservatives, I do not think that every single element of gun regulation is some future threat to the right to bear arms. That’s pure conspiracy theory and alarmist nonsense. But, the killing of 20 children in their classrooms meant absolutely nothing in getting Americans fired for even the simplest of gun regulation. So, for as appalling and tragic as the Vegas Shooting is, nothing will come of it. No one will even initiate mental health efforts on a national level.
When I was a guard in Vegas I pretty much took my job seriously (as I do even today). Yes, it’s not a respected profession in general.. people laugh at mall cops.. funny TV commercials assume we “just monitor” and will let you know when you are being robbed… rather than intervene. Most of the stereotypes of this profession are well-earned because of the level of hiring requirements and minimum wage pay, and the inept customer service of security companies. Yet when I was on duty I considered the responsibility far greater than my own company did. But no one was going to be harmed on my watch. Besides, when I am just standing there I am also mentally doing scenarios to reduce my own exposure as well as protect the public.
Being on the Strip I often scoped outside and even traveling to and from work.. and saw the complete vulnerability of the public to anything happening. Of course the police do a great job.. but this is not about the police. This is about public exposure to violence. I often said that snipers in the buildings or bombers in the streets was just a matter of “when” and not “if”. The only defense the public has is using common sense. Know your exits. When you go into some crowded venue think “Hollywood” if you have to… escape routes, fire exits, fire extinguishers. This is not about being obsessive and in constant worry.. just being aware of your surroundings. It’s also about moving quickly to save yourself and your loved ones; not stand there with astonishment, disbelief, and in shock. Expect the worst, but enjoy life.
Because, I fear, in the end this will yet pass as just another tragedy.. nothing gets done on a social or political level, life goes on. Death also goes on. You have to learn to take action on a personal level as best as you can.