Today, we mourn.
For the dead, with at least 58 people being gunned down Sunday in Las Vegas. For the injured, with more than 500 victims suffering gun shots or being hurt in the chaos that followed. And for the United States, with the dignity of this nation being diminished by its inability to confront the scourge of mass shootings.
Yes, today we mourn. But soon we must talk. We must have hard discussions that too often get shunted aside in the wake of tragedy.
As of Monday, the wounds of Las Vegas were too fresh and the information too scant to draw conclusions. Officials were seeking the motives that drove a lone gunman to fire upon concertgoers from a window on the 32nd floor of a hotel across the street. Information about his background and the madness that inspired him must be culled and examined; so, too, must information about the weapons he used and the planning that went into the massacre.
Yet the predictable sequence of responses is an indictment of this nation’s inability to confront large problems. Fake news outlets have pushed narratives that the event was a false flag operation designed to promote gun control. Members of Congress have offered thoughts and prayers to the victims while ignoring the fact that they have the power to address the issue. And gun rights advocates have insisted that it is too soon to talk about preventing such carnage — just as they do whenever a mass shooting occurs.
The fact is that it is not too soon to discuss the barbarism that is gun violence in the United States. According to 2012 data from the United Nations, the United States’ rate of gun deaths dwarfs that of all other developed countries, being, for example, six times that of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany.
The fact that such a status is regarded as acceptable by a large segment of the population is an appalling indictment of this nation. The fact that mass tragedies are salved with thoughts and prayers or suggestions that now is not the time to talk about the issue is an embarrassing acknowledgement that savagery will be allowed to continue. As Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., wrote on Twitter: “To my colleagues: your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers. None of this ends unless we do something to stop it.”
Remember Virginia Tech, where 32 people were gunned down in 2007? Remember Sandy Hook, where 20 school children and six adults were gunned down at an elementary school in 2012? Remember Orlando, where 49 people were murdered at a nightclub in 2016? Each of those events generated promises of “never again”; each of them were quickly obfuscated by political wrangling and ideological rigidity. The horror of Las Vegas should not be allowed to settle into the national psyche as though such carnage is the price we pay for a free society. Instead, it must be confronted.
Imagine being among the 20,000 or so people who gathered for a night of country music. Imagine having that gathering shattered by flurries of gunfire. Imagine being unable to discern where the shots are coming from as people next to you are wounded or killed. Now imagine realizing that this nation, which aspires to be a beacon of civilization, is unlikely to address the issues and allow this kind of massacre to be repeated.
That should be unacceptable for all Americans. So, today we mourn for the victims in Las Vegas. But it will more beneficial when we start to talk.