Update: The total victim-count has risen to 59 with 550 injured, since this was posted.
For a little over two hours, I’ve been watching/reading the news out of the Las Vegas Strip, where one lone gunman created mayhem in a matter of minutes. Consider those numbers: One shooter. 55 dead. 515 injured.
Many of those injured are believed to be critical, so that toll can only go up. But even where it stands at present, the shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort on the strip is the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, beats the record of Omar Mateen, who on June 12 last year killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
This is the 227th incident of gun-related violence in the US this year – if you have the stomach for it, here are the details. Estimates are that over 30,000 people die in gun related violence. That is in a year. If a virus took even half as many lives, the entire resources of the nation would have been dedicated to eradicating it.
But not guns, oh no. Because the National Rifle Association is rich (riches coming from the sale of guns more suited to the bloodiest of battlefields) and powerful; it funds dozens of Senators and hundreds of Congressmen and state-level legislators. And these politicians, most of them Republicans, ferociously resist any attempts at gun-control legislation. (Earlier this year, the Republicans voted aye to a bill permitting people diagnosed with mental illness to buy guns. Trump signed the bill.)
Today, every single member of the NRA, every single politician at the state and Federal level, has blood on his hands. Not that this will make a difference – America will weep, and mourn, and light candles, and march, and the politicians will stay deep in their shells till it all dies over, and then hold their hands out again to the NRA because next year, there is another election to be fought, and elections take money, and the NRA has money for its friends. (Mike Pence just tweeted out his sympathy – the same Pence whose campaign accepted $30 million from the NRA and affiliates in the 2016 election cycle).
The shooting is bad enough – but what makes you cringe, what makes you wonder just what is happening to mankind, is this: in the immediate wake of Nevada, while first responders and hospitals are still struggling to get the injured treated, fighting to save the lives of those critically wounded, there are people taking to social media to perpetrate all kinds of vicious hoaxes. A short sampling suffices to make you lose any residual faith in human nature.
PSA: Pollster Nate Silver has a checklist of dos and don’ts for the media, and the rest of us, at times like this.
Here are three articles I read just now, while the news unfolded on TV and on the web:
What Bullets Do To Bodies, a grim examination of what exactly happens when you are shot
The Secret History of Guns, a detailed look at gun legislation and the proliferation of lethal weapons in America
Battleground America, Jill Lepore’s compelling exploration for the New Yorker of the insane history of gun laws
How to make your own AR-15: This scared the pants off me
I’ll leave you with two thoughts. One, the shooter was a white American male. Do you think any media house will use the term “terrorist” to describe him?
And, two: Today is the International Day of Non-violence. Countries around the world mark this day as the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi – an apostle of peace who was murdered. By a gun.
The author, Prem Panicker, is a senior journalist and co-founder of Rediff.com. This post was first published on his personal site.
Tweet at Prem: @prempanicker
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