Shortly after 10 p.m. last night, the final concert of the Route 91 Harvest Festival was interrupted by the sounds of gunfire. A man, positioned on the 32nd floor of the adjacent Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, began firing indiscriminately into the crowd of 22,000 people.
The news came slowly at first, then all at once. First it was two people dead, dozens injured. The news reported that for hours. But, some of us have family in law enforcement that were providing us more up-to-date information, and we knew it was worse. The shooting was so close to home, we knew the news better than the news did. We’ve seen this sort of violence many times before, but for once, we knew the faces in the photos on the news.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, and it left at least 59 dead and more than 500 wounded.
Mass shootings are not uncommon, not by a longshot. An analysis by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which collects media, police and government reports on gun violence nationwide, found 273 mass shooting incidents this year alone.
But, you never think it could happen to you or your loved ones until it does. We learned that the hard way on Sunday.
A man named Stephen Paddock shot a machine gun into a crowd in Las Vegas for reasons unknown to us at this time. Questions and assumptions went up on Twitter and television almost immediately. Where did he buy the gun? Did he buy it legally? Is he a lone wolf or terrorist? Is he Muslim or Christian?
These questions are irrelevant to us, at least for the moment.
We sat in front of the TV for hours. It’s probably the most we’ve ever watched the news since 9/11. We checked our phones every minute, hoping for only positive notifications, hoping our friends marked themselves safe on Facebook. We watched the videos we could find hoping to not see anyone we recognized.
Meanwhile, Alex Jones was preparing his fresh conspiracy theories. Hillary Clinton was preparing her gun silencer tweets. Bill O’Reilly couldn’t wait until the bodies were cleared to call the massacre Americans’ “price for freedom.”
We shouldn’t have to sort through opinions from politicians and pundits on Twitter to find out if our friends and loved ones are safe.
Gun policy is important, and eventually Las Vegans will be at the forefront of the debate. But right now, we need to mourn, take stock of this chaos and show gratitude to all the people who risked their lives and literally gave their blood to help those in need.
Why does this insane gun violence keep happening? There are plenty of arguments and debates to be had, and our newspaper will be right in the middle of them. But not right now.