Dear America

Dear United States of America,

On September 28th, 2017, a man by the name of Stephen Paddock checked into room 32135 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. From his room on the 32nd floor of the hotel, he had a clear view of the three day “Route 91” country music festival running on the other side of Las Vegas. At 10:05pm, on Sunday, October 1st, the first shots were fired into the night. The shots sounded like menacing fireworks, that slowly woke the crowd of 22,000 to the realization that they were being hunted. Chaos erupted, and for what seemed like an eternity, bullets continued to rain down on the crowd, killing or wounding many who dared to move. As of last Thursday, 59 people have been confirmed dead, and more than 500 people have been wounded. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/las-vegas-shooting-timeline-stephen-paddock-mandalay-bay/)  This event was devastatingly tragic. It was the largest mass shooting in your history, but the fact is, nobody was even surprised.

The following Monday, October 2nd, a familiar tune rang out amidst your states. One of somber acclimation, depression and anger. Anger for the insanity of the gunman, anger at the state of your gun laws and regulations, and anger towards each other, some for owning the killing machines, and others for trying to take them away. The shooting is truly a tragic thing to have happened, but the reality is, it’s happened hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. Since January 1, 2017, there have been 273 mass shootings in the United States. That’s only 10 months. Almost one shooting per day. (https://www.vox.com/2015/10/3/9444417/gun-violence-united-states-america) I’d like to say that the name Stephen Paddock will live in infamy, but there are just too many names to remember.  

The big question your media outlets, and simply everyone in your entire country seems to be asking is: why? The authorities looked to the girlfriend of the shooter, Marilou Danley, but she had little to no information to offer them. Even Eric Paddock, the brother of the shooter, said he is “completely dumbfounded”. We do know that Stephen was 64 years old. We know he lived in Mesquite, Nevada, about eighty miles from Las Vegas, and led a fairly normal life. We know he sent boxes of cookies to his mother. We know he had a gambling addiction, specifically to video poker, on which he may have spent millions on. We know he previously held various government jobs. And lastly, we know he owned 47 guns. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-attack-stephen-paddock-trnd/index.html) For most people, the latter might be a red flag, or at least cause for concern. Especially when he compiled 33 of his guns over a period of just one year. Most of these were semi-automatic rifles, and twelve of them were outfitted with bump stocks, an accessory that allows the guns to fire like fully automatic weapons. But instead, no one batted an eye, and a completely preventable tragedy became one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Completely dumbfounded seems to be the sentiment of your entire nation.

We probably won’t ever know the answer to the “why” question, because Stephen Paddock was, in all likelihood, a fairly normal guy. He wasn’t involved in any previous scandal, crime or conspiracy. No crazy political ideology, religious ideology or nationalism. Stephen Paddock was just mentally unstable, as is anyone who commits a crime this heinous. It doesn’t take much to understand the correlation between shootings like these and mentally unbalanced individuals – it’s the guns. Your gun laws make it ridiculously easy for anyone to get a gun, which is why this keeps happening, and will continue to happen. In Nevada, no registering of guns, permits, or background checks of any kind are required to own a gun. Not even a permit is required to openly carry a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/health/nevada-gun-laws-trnd/index.html) So when Stephen Paddock spent years planning, amassing his weapons, and took duffle bags full of guns up to the 32nd floor in preparation for the violent atrocity he was about to commit, he did so absolutely legally.

So why, oh why, are you completely dumbfounded? It’s as if you ask for this to happen again, and again and again. You have had 1500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook. You hold about 30% of global mass shootings. According to the Human Development Index, you have a gun homicide rate of 29.7 per one million people, 93 people per day. And just in case you are tempted to think that ‘isn’t that much’, 13, 286 people were killed by guns in 2015. (https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/) The state of Nevada has a gun homicide rate of 14.9 per 100, 000, which is four above the national average. Among the developed countries, you have a gun homicide rate that’s six times higher on average. This isn’t a crime issue, because crime rates in the first world are relatively similar. This isn’t a terror issue, because you only have 31 deaths attributed to terror per year. (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/2/16399418/us-gun-violence-statistics-maps-charts) This, is a gun issue. I won’t enter into a discussion as to whether more guns truly mean more violence, but rather appeal to your rationale. If there is open availability to weapons of mass destruction, doesn’t it make sense that someone – someone insane, angry, unstable – will attain possession of said weapon? But you refuse to make a change. You continue to parade guns around as if they’re freedom itself. It’s ironic, in this backwards way, that the thing that you believe brings you freedom could be the death of you. And this isn’t just affecting your own people; in the last shooting, four Canadians were murdered. One mom of three, two tourists and one student. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/4-canadians-among-dozens-killed-in-las-vegas-mass-shooting-1.4316485)

So please end the senseless killing. No more kids with guns. No more innocent dead, no more fear, no more ignorance. Please. For your country, and for the rest of the world. Charleton Heston, former president of the NRA once said, “As we set out this year, to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to head, and especially for you, Mr Gore, from my cold dead hands!” And if nothing is done, no guns are regulated, bump stocks taken off shelves, laws revised, you may end up one of those statistics. One of the 13,286 killed by guns, one of the dozens killed in the next mass shooting. And unfortunately, we may have to remove the guns, from your cold, dead hands.