What we know is the sound of a war zone. We know the sound of bullets flying so fast that you might think of a rusted and ragged zipper.
Did you see the video? Did you see country music singer Jason Aldean, his guitar slung over shoulders, standing front and center when the gunfire began? He knew that sound, that staccato rip of mass-produced death. He fled for the safety of the back of the stage, and the crowd screamed and people were hit and bled and died, and nobody could be sure where the gunfire was coming from.
How do you run when you don’t know where to run?
At last check, 59 people were dead from the bullets that flew during a country music show in Las Vegas. Five-hundred-plus more were injured. By the time you read this, more likely will have died.
And we can’t say all that much about the motive of the killer, Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada. He’s dead himself — finally and too late.
But we know that sound, that ripping of bullets from a single indefensible weapon designed for nothing else. Not for hunting. Not for defending our homes. Not for target practice.
Automatic and semi-automatic guns are designed to kill people by the bunches — and this one on this night did its job superbly.
We are so damn sad. We can’t begin to express our sorrow for all the people who were killed in Las Vegas, even as we slept so soundly in our beds in the Midwest. We are beginning to hear their names, see photos of their faces, and they could be any of us — they are any of us. Nice folks out for a night of music, our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. Dead now. Do we feel survivor’s guilt? We should.
The president offers his condolences. For what it’s worth. And there will be prayers and funeral services. For what they’re worth.
And politicians in the pocket of the gun lobby, tons of them, will stand on the floor of the House and the Senate and say how tragic this shooting was and how something must be done — but don’t punish the law-abiding gun owner because guns are American freedom, guns are apple pie, guns are the flag, guns are the national anthem.
And they won’t tell you that every honest opinion poll for a generation in this country shows Americans are sick to death of the carnage.
The National Rifle Association hates those polls. Guns are money for them. Gun-makers make them rich.
Yes, we don’t want to see grandpa stand defenseless against home invaders. We don’t want to stop folks from hunting deer in the woods of Wisconsin.
But we have called for saner gun laws time and again, only for the gun nuts to twist the message: The crazy liberal media wants to take your guns!
So let’s make two points clear:
• Most of America, to judge by the polls, wants to take illegally obtained guns away from bad people — the drug-dealers and the gang-bangers. Not legally obtained guns from decent people, but illegally obtained guns from bad people. And that means better licensing of gun stores and a ban on the easy sale of weapons at gun shows and garage sales. Seriously: people buy guns in many parts of America, legally, at garage sales.
• Most of America also wants to ban access to semi-automatic and automatic weapons. The guns that killed in Aurora and at Virginia Tech and Newtown and Umpqua College and San Bernardino and . . .
We could go on. So could you. In June, the Washington Post did the arithmetic and reported that 889 men, women and children have been killed in mass shootings in the United States since Aug. 1, 1966 — about seven people per shooting.
In the very first of these shootings, an ex-Marine sniper, Charles Whitman, killed his wife and mother and then climbed up high in a tower at the University of Texas and killed 14 more people. Everybody at the time thought that was an act of craziness, an anomaly, something you just don’t see.
Now we know better. Now we wait for the next mass murder.
After 50 years, we are closing in on 1,000 deaths from mass shootings. The Las Vegas tally gets us almost there.
Are we properly horrified yet? Will we do something finally? Will we honor the dead in Las Vegas by, at long last, demanding gun sanity?
If we continue to do nothing, all our tears are a fraud.
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