Charles E. Richardson

No matter what horrifies us, the ‘people play on’

Yes, we are crazy. Fifty-eight people were shot and killed in cold blood in Las Vegas, Nevada last Sunday, another 500 injured, either from gunfire or in the resulting melee trying to escape the rain of bullets.

We will never know why Stephen Paddock, reportedly a rich, high-stakes gambler, went off the cliff. He wasn’t man enough to stick around and explain his demented justification for multiple murders. We do know he planned to take more lives with the arsenal of guns and explosives he had stashed in his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel suite.

Before you guess what I’m going to say, read on. I might surprise you. I’m not here to rail against guns or promote more regulations. I’m not going to ask for more extensive background checks or waiting periods or training before a person can purchase a weapon of mass destruction. While those measures reek of common sense, none of it matters.

The barn door is open and has been for some time and it’s too late to shut it. If the cold-blooded murder of 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, or 12 movie goers in Aurora, Colorado, just out to see the latest “Batman” film, or the nine folks attending Bible study in a Charleston, South Carolina church, wasn’t enough motivation for us to rethink this country’s relationship with our weapons, another 59 dead just adds to the body count.

As a society, we have decided this kind of carnage is acceptable. There are more mass shootings in the United States, almost double, as occurred in 24 other wealthy nations, combined, but who really cares? We obviously don’t. We have deemed, through our silence, that this level of violence is OK, something we just have to live with or maybe die with.

Obviously the killers have no respect for life. They have planned and calculated their attacks. The more death the better. Their victims are unknown to them. These sick individuals are out to make a statement and if you or I are standing in the right place at the wrong time, that’s just the luck of the draw.

We have to ask ourselves as a nation: Do we respect life? The answer is obvious.

So if you’re wondering, this is a perfect example of the blighted village. And while we turn a bright spotlight on particular communities, that’s only a smoke screen to hide the hidden disease that lurks in the infrastructure of the American society. It manifests itself almost everyday somewhere in our country and it usually ends with a gun in somebody’s hand and bullets in several bodies.

I know it sounds grim, but we don’t have the will to do anything but prepare ourselves for the next record-setting shooting. Before Las Vegas, the last record was set in Orlando, Florida, 477 days earlier, when a gunman, Omar Mateen, took 49 lives.

Aside from the record setters in Orlando and Las Vegas, there have been 519 mass shootings in the 477 days in between the two events.

A mass shooting, as defined by the FBI, is one that involves four or more people injured or killed in a single incident. According to statistics from the Gun Violence Archive, using FBI information, our nation has averaged 27.2 mass shootings each month this year, and that includes October that’s just begun. In the last six months of 2016, we averaged 41.3 mass shootings a month.

We will, for but a moment, be horrified by the Las Vegas incident. The inevitable debate over gun control will ensue. Our elected leaders will talk around the issue not wanting to rouse the anger of the NRA or their own gun-toting base of voters. But we will soon return to normal as NPR’s “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep, reporting from Las Vegas, noted Wednesday following the shooting:

“The lights are still on,” he said, “the replica of the Eiffel Tower, which was dark for one night in memory of the victims of the killings, is lit up once again. The casinos are open. And the people play on.”