At least 50 people dead. More than 500 injured. Thatís the news most of us woke up to on Monday morning after a gunman opened fire on concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas Sunday night. In many ways, itís the same story we hear every time a crazy person kills a bunch of people with a gun.
We heard it when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 of their classmates and one teacher at Columbine in 1999, when Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech University in 2007, when Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and when Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida last year. At the time, the nightclub shooting was the worst mass shooting in American history.
Thatís not true after the shooting in Las Vegas, where Stephen Paddock shot at country music fans from a 32nd-floor window at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Many of the victims ducked to the floor during the shooting, unaware the shots were coming from above. They were trying to protect themselves, but thereís really no way to protect yourself during something like that. You can only hope to be one of the lucky ones who survives.
It might upset some of you to see the details of the shooting. You might think Iím sensationalizing the event by writing about it in this way. But I donít relish retelling how the shooting happened. I donít want to think about it. If it were up to me, weíd live in a country where mass shootings arenít as common as hurricane season. Then none of us would ever have to think about it.
Unfortunately, weíve experienced so many mass shootings that many Americans are desensitized to the senseless violence. Thatís why Iím sharing these details today. The details make the shooting real. The details make the situation exactly as horrific as it is. We all need to know the details, because thatís what leads to a call for action. More than anything, we need a call to action on this issue.
Mass shootings happen frequently in our country, but itís still easy to keep going if you donít have any connection to the event. We can pretend itís OK so long as it isnít happening to us. I am done pretending everything is fine. I am angry Ö angry that weíve lost more than 50 fellow citizens for no good reason and fearful that this tragedy wonít be enough to inspire change in our government and its people.
What could possibly change to prevent something like this from happening in the future? Some of you believe this will continue to happen with or without meaningful gun control legislation. ďItís a people problem, not a gun problem,Ē youíll say.
Well, itís not that simple. Itís a people problem and a gun problem all rolled into one, and itís not going to stop until our attitudes change and our lawmakers put that change into action. We need to take care of our fellow citizens. We need to understand the importance of mental health and lobby for better mental health services across the board. At the same time, we need to find some way to prevent unstable people from getting guns.
Though itís not simple to fix, it is important that we try to do it. I can remember every mass shooting thatís happened since Iíve been alive, and I remember thinking that would be the one to change things. Is this the one?
Is it enough?
ē ē ē
Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com