When I woke up this morning, I noticed on Facebook that people were "Praying for Las Vegas!" Historically, that is an immediate sign of some sort of mass killing or terrorist attack and my cue to watch the news.
I read about a 64-year-old man who murdered more than 50 people. Who knows, it could be more. The death toll climbs each time I check back for updates. I'm not even going to bother using his name. I'm not going to give him credit for what he did. What he did sickens me to the core. I'll call him "the shooter."
This shooter decided to rent a hotel room at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. In his room were a variety of weapons that he would later use to shower a crowd of unsuspecting concert-goers with bullets.
The shooting happened during a country music on the Las Vegas strip. I watched a news reporting of it and saw that a concert goer was taking video of Jason Aldean's performance when you hear something like firecrackers going off in the background. The band kept playing, but the sound came again and you see the singer and others in the crowd running away.
I would encourage you to seek out some news stories on this. My purpose isn't to report this to you. My purpose is to say the following:
MASS SHOOTINGS DON'T JUST HAPPEN
There are plenty of things that could have happened to avoid this. There are plenty of people who could have recognized what was going on and stopped it or at least reported it.
PUT BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS
No matter what someone could have done to stop it, the blame should always go to the person who committed the atrocity. It was ultimately their choice. Most people who are on a mental break or who commit these types of shooting are suffering with a mental issue that they are aware of and can seek care for.
I won't make a huge post about this because it is a big issue, but access to affordable mental health care is limited, and some don't know what resources they have. If you work with a group that provides these services for free, consider educating your area so they know that there is free help for things like these.
FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND ROOMMATES
If you look back at news reports from mass shooters, you will see that family members or friends noticed a change in the shooter. If you look at reports from the previous year's mass shooting, when the shooter (who I still won't name) open fired in Pulse night club, killing 49 people, his wife knew something strange was going on, and prosecutors agree she probably knew he was going to go in and kill all of those people.
The shooter in this situation had a roommate. I've lived with roommates, and I can tell you that I know for a fact when something bad is happening to them. They don't have to tell me. Just their demeanor shows that something is going on. I've lived with people who struggled with anxiety and depression and social anxiety. Believe me, YOU KNOW WHEN SOMETHING IS OFF. And my roommates didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I can't imagine being able to ignore the issues with a roommate who follows through with a mass shooting.
I get we live in a capitalistic world, but how did a gun merchant not see the signs? Someone comes in one day (assuming he didn't stock pile) and just decides to buy up a ton of automatic weapons and ammo?
In 2016, following the aforementioned mass shooting at Pulse night club, a Las Vegas news outlet, FOX5, went to a local gun store and bought a semi-automatic weapon in 15 minutes. There was a background check involved that looked for felony and misdemeanor charges. I'm pro-ownership, but I see absolutely no reason why someone needs a semi-automatic gun. I get shotguns, I get handguns, but not semi-automatic. Why does it take 15 minutes to buy however many guns you want, but it takes 5 minutes to buy Sudafed at limited quantities?
Gun sales are special in that merchants can refuse sale to anyone for whatever reason. There are several physical signs that someone may use a gun to harm people. This includes excessive anger, depression, and so on. If a gun salesmen saw that, it should be their duty to stop it. However, even if those things were taken care of, there would still be gun sales on the deep/dark web and illegal gun sales in back allies. But, more often than not, guns are purchased by mass shooters or their family or friends from gun shops or online (which is a ridiculous way to acquire weaponry anyway).
How did the hotel not hear the gunshots first? In initial news reports, I didn't read what I thought I would. I didn't read "the hotel tipped off the cops that staff and guests reported hearing the gunshots coming from the building." No. It said they started shutting down casinos and hotels around the area until the shooter was found and neutralized.
In the same vein, did they see him looking distraught or visibly bothered? Did they even address it? Did he seem suicidal or eager to get to his room? Did anyone go in his room while he was there and see his guns? There are a lot of unanswered questions, but I imagine that, like most mass shooters, he displayed some visible sign.
We have so normalized guns in our society that, when we are confronted by a real one, we don't even know what to do. It is scary how movies out of Hollywood make guns seem normal. They aren't. If you are a true gun owner, you are probably hoping you'll never even have to use your gun for its intended purpose (to stop intruders in your home or to keep your family safe).
Additionally, we don't confront people when we see that they may be displaying signs that they are planning a mass shooting. We are in a "mind your business" culture. It is arguably getting better, but it is still that way for the most part. If we see something suspicious, we shouldn't just say "I'll just let someone else take care of it." Don't mind your business in those situations. It could save countless lives.
NOTICE THE SIGNS
Here are a few signs to look out for if you notice a change in someone you know:
- Hints toward violence (toward a group of people or a race)
- Sudden interest in guns and weapons
- History of abuse behavior toward a spouse or family member
- Traumatic life experiences (loss of a job, loved one, etc.)
- Bullying (especially in younger adults, teens, and children)
- Purchasing a lot of weapons
- Physchological or behavioral issues (depression, social isolation, etc.)
- No remorse
- No friends
- Dysfunctional family life
- THEY TELL YOU THEY'RE GOING TO DO IT.
If you see anyone displaying these signs, let someone know. It is better to be safe an lose a friend than it is to watch something like this unfold knowing you could have had a hand in preventing it.