Special Briefing: Confronting the Massacre in Las Vegas

Special Briefing: Confronting the Massacre in Las Vegas

Mourners light candles during a vigil at the corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard for the victims of the mass shooting on Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Late Sunday night, a lone gunman killed more than 50 people and injured more than 500 after he opened fire on a large crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country-music festival. The massacre is one of the deadliest mass shooting events in U.S. history.

SourceDrew Angerer/Getty

Why you should care

Because the shooting has done little to change the gun debate in Washington, D.C.

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images, and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

What happened? Around 10:08 p.m. local time on Sunday evening in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of about 22,000 attendees at the Route 91 Harvest music festival for 11 minutes. The shooter, who died from self-inflicted wounds alongside 23 firearms, including semiautomatic rifles, shot concertgoers through two broken windows on the 32nd floor of his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Why does it matter? With 58 killed, a suicide and more than 500 injured, the Mandalay Bay shooting ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to bear arms, but each year, according to a recent study, more than 100,000 people are shot in the U.S., and $2.8 billion is spent treating their injuries.

Who was the shooter? Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white male from a quiet retirement community in nearby Mesquite, was a wealthy former accountant and government employee who liked to gamble. According to law enforcement, there is no evidence that Paddock’s arsenal of weapons, including at least 47 firearms, was purchased illegally or that he failed any federal background checks.

WHAT TO KNOW

The blame game. The need to find answers and assign blame in the wake of this devastating tragedy has led to fingers being pointed at a host of factors, including lax gun laws, inadequate hotel security, domestic terrorism, America’s gun culture, the National Rifle Association, toxic masculinity, partisan gerrymandering and sanctuary cities. Tune in to Third Rail With OZY on PBS at 8:30 p.m. this Friday, when we’ll host a full discussion.

Uncertain motive. Police have not yet determined Paddock’s motive, but the massacre appears to have been the result of meticulous planning. The killer filled his luxury suite with weapons over three days and installed surveillance cameras to monitor any approaching law enforcement. Unlike other, mostly younger, mass shooters, Paddock did not leave any note or manifesto, did not appear to have had any formal firearms training, and had no history of crime or mental illness.

Sin City saints. A number of concertgoers stepped up to save strangers as the tragedy unfolded, from a Marine veteran who stole a truck in order to shepherd injured victims to a nearby hospital, to a 30-year-old father who took a bullet in the neck after running back to help at least 30 people to safety.

Washington Hold’em. The shooting has done little to change the gun debate in Washington, D.C. Congressional Republicans, who shelved a bill that would make it easier to buy gun silencers, have not joined Democrats in calling for new restrictions on firearms, leaving the minority party clinging to the unlikely possibility that President Donald Trump, who visited Las Vegas today, will join them on enacting gun control measures he opposed as a candidate.

The big picture. It may not feel like it, says Harvard University social scientist Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, but overall levels of human violence are declining, part of a centuries-long civilizing process. Rates of violence in the American South and West, however, remain notably above trend, something Pinker attributes to the lagging effects of a frontier culture that valorized honor and depended on private justice and vigilantism in the absence of an effective state authority.

WHAT TO READ

They Survived the Las Vegas Shooting. But They Don’t Want More Gun Control, by Charlotte Alter in Time magazine

“It’s not like he had a record, this guy was clean.”

What’s a ‘Lone Wolf’? It’s the Special Name We Give White Terrorists, by Moustafa Bayoumi in The Guardian

“Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock seems to fit every definition of a terrorist — apart from being Muslim.”

The Left Misunderstands the Power of the NRA, by David French in the National Review

“It’s not an all-powerful manipulator; it succeeds by reflecting the wishes of a large community.”

WHAT TO WATCH

The State of Gun Violence in the U.S., Explained in 18 Charts (Vox)

“The United States has a problem with gun violence. We talk about it after mass shootings, but it’s much larger and more complicated than those debates allow.”

Late-Night Comedian Jimmy Kimmel on the Mass Shooting in His Hometown of Las Vegas

“You know, in 1980 we had a big fire at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas. It was horrible, 85 people died. … So you know what they did? They changed the laws. They made major changes to the fire-safety codes, and it hasn’t happened again.”

Parting Thoughts

Two findings that run counter to many media narratives surrounding mass shootings: First, despite high-profile tragedies like Las Vegas and Orlando, the number of mass shootings in America has not increased over recent years, according to Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. What has increased? The number of firearm bills passed by legislatures in response to such mass shootings, most of which loosen, rather than strengthen, gun laws, according to a team of Harvard researchers.

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