Las Vegas Responses: Predictably Impotent?

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Skyline of Las Vegas
(Flickr/Bernard Spragg, NZ) Las Vegas Skyline
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A Las Vegas massacre on Sunday left 59 people dead and hundreds injured. Shockingly, one individual unleashed this terror in a few minutes.

Apparently, gunman Stephen Paddock used rifles adapted to fire like machine guns. These changes helped him to heighten the carnage.

For responding police, Paddock’s shooting perch on the 32nd floor of his hotel room meant confusion about his location. It was close to half an hour before his room was located.

Predictably, the responses followed a pattern often seen in other incidents.

Las Vegas Conspiracy Theories

Within hours of mass shootings, conspiracy theories spread. Las Vegas was no exception. Major Internet companies like Facebook, Google, and YouTube were popular venues to spread fake news.

Social media peddled theories about the identity of the gunman and victims, gun control laws, and purported connections to ISIS.

Not surprisingly, right-wing purveyors of fake news were quick to blame the left and Islam. One famous conspiracy fan touted his connections to law enforcement to justify his theories about the Las Vegas shooting.

Now, it is true that an ISIS-linked news agency claimed that Paddock was an ISIS “soldier.” However, analysts have noticed an increased tendency for ISIS recently to make fake claims.

Las Vegas Shooter: Race and Religion

To this day, we know little about Paddock’s reasons for shooting. His act puzzled family members.

What is not puzzling but predictable is the double standards in response to the shooting. Media and cops described Paddock in many ways – but not as a “terrorist.”

Was it because he Paddock did not fit what the US sees as a “terrorist”? Authorities offered complex legal explanations as to why the act was not considered “terrorism.”

Indeed, some sites like TMZ felt Paddock did not even fit the “Mass Shooter Profile.” Even in the short period since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed or injured by white men than by Muslim terrorists.

Still, when a white man commits such acts of terror, there is a tendency to look for mental health issues. By contrast, ever hear of a “deranged” Muslim terrorist?

The double standards over race and religion carry over into policy and political responses too.

Las Vegas and Gun Control

Predictably, every mass shooting in the US evokes debates over gun control. Republicans try to head off gun control, saying it is “too soon.”

When those who commit terrorist acts are Muslim, people like President Donald Trump are quick to push Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies.

Imagine if brown Muslims were to head to gun shops and shows in waves. There would be urgent calls to police.

The same is likely to happen in most Western countries. However, many statistics point to the US as an outlier when it comes to guns. Unfortunately, it is also unusual when it comes to dealing with gun violence.

Democrats and a few Republicans may join to propose sensible gun laws in the wake of Las Vegas. But most politicians are afraid of the rabid reaction from fanatic gun-owners.

Therefore, I am afraid that what happened in Vegas will not change policy on guns.


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