Like all my readers, I’m sickened and horrified by the carnage in Las Vegas in the early hours of this morning. As I write these words, there are said to be 50+ dead and 200+ injured in the worst mass shooting incident in US history. The shooter (killed by police) is said to have been a “lone wolf”. No information concerning his possible motive(s) has been released at the time of writing. Some are already saying that this wasn’t a “terrorist” attack . . . but it was, of course. For whatever reason and in whatever cause, it was designed to cause terror. It did.
One can predict with weary certainty what our politicians will do and say about this. There’ll be the usual pontificating from one side about how guns are evil, and if we’d only ban assault weapons, and/or privately-owned machine-guns, and/or whatever, this would never have happened. The other side will point out that the gun(s) didn’t fire themselves; that a human agent was needed to actually pull the trigger and cause the massacre; and that if the gun(s) hadn’t been available, he could very easily have found different methods and locations to cause a mass casualty event. Both factions will have an element of right on their sides, but neither will be completely accurate.
The reality is that machine-guns (i.e. fully automatic weapons), in the wrong hands, do have the potential to cause such a massacre. That’s precisely what machine-guns were designed to do in the first place. Arguing that the vast, overwhelming majority of private machine-gun owners would never dream of such an act is neither here nor there. The fact remains, the instrument was designed to cause mass casualties . . . and that’s enough to give anti-gunners screaming hissy-fits. I expect a renewed effort to ban the private ownership of machine-guns. Frankly, I don’t know that there are enough good, worthwhile arguments on the other side to stop such an effort from succeeding. The anti-gunners can, and will, argue that if machine-guns are available, even if only by theft, then criminals and fanatics can and will steal them for their own purposes. In their eyes, that risk is too great to be borne.
A countervailing reality, one that the anti-gunners will do their best to ignore, is that we’ve known all along that such mass casualty incidents are, and will continue to be, inevitable. There’s no avoiding that in a world where terrorism is a daily reality. There will be more Las Vegas-style shootings, just as there will be more terrorists ramming pedestrians with vehicles, or planting bombs in places where people assemble. I remain astonished that so many terrorists have been so inept in the planning and execution of their attacks. That’s been an almost incredible stroke of luck for many countries. For example, if the Barcelona terrorists had managed to construct a working truck bomb out of the gas cylinders they’d stockpiled in a nearby town, the carnage might have been indescribable. It’s only thanks to the grace of God and their own mistakes that casualties weren’t ten or twenty times greater. Someone’s going to try again . . . and one day, they’ll probably succeed. The instrument they use is not important to them. Its results are what matters.
The only precautions we can take against such attacks is to stay away from places where they are more likely to happen. I know, many people say that’s “giving in to terrorists”. Yes, in one sense, it is, but that’s inevitable – because the brutal reality of our present situation is that terrorists can’t be stopped. The authorities can (and do) stop many of them, but they can’t stop all of them. Therefore, there is no way to ensure your safety other than to be somewhere else when terrorists attack. That may be unpalatable to the macho brigade, but it remains an undeniable fact.
What’s more, carrying weapons on your person isn’t necessarily a solution, either. A pistol may help you stop an attacker wielding a knife or a gun, or disable a vehicle (or its driver) that’s trying to run you down, but it’ll do nothing to protect you from a bomb, or an arsonist-set fire. (An act of arson at a New York nightclub in 1990 caused many more fatalities than Las Vegas. I daresay would-be terrorists have taken note of that. No bomb or gun required – just a couple of gallons of gasoline, available everywhere for a few dollars. What if the Las Vegas shooter had been unable to get his hands on full-auto firearms, and decided to use gasoline instead, inside the hotel from which he fired?)
Las Vegas is yet another reminder that there are people out there who don’t care about the sanctity of human life, and, for whatever reason, are determined to kill as many of us as possible. That’s an inescapable reality of life in this day and age. We’d better get used to it . . . because it’s not going to change.
May those who died last night rest in peace. May those who were injured, recover swiftly and as fully as possible. May those who lost loved ones receive what comfort they may . . . and may the rest of us learn from this tragedy, and conduct ourselves accordingly.