Posted 05 October 2017
As 59 families mourn their loss and more than 500 wounded victims and their families hang on to hope and struggle to understand after the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert Sunday, America must finally acknowledge that it’s time to act. We must acknowledge that an act of terror happened at the Route 91 Harvest festival, just as it did at Pulse Nightclub and Sandy Hook Elementary and the Aurora theater, do something to regulate semi-automatic weapons, and do something to address mental health issues in this country.
Words matter. The carefully crafted statements and stories dance around terminology for the 64-year-old white male shooter. Stephen Paddock pierced through a night of fun and entertainment for a crowd of 22,000 and elicited sheer terror. Until we as a society can treat criminals (and victims) of all races, genders, and religions the same, equality will always be beyond our grasp. Call a terrorist a terrorist - or don’t use the term at all. Why does it matter? Because refusing to label a white male the same way America would label a Middle Eastern male will continue to breed hate within our communities.
Legislation matters. As Congress considers a ban on automatic weapons, Paddock used a bump-stock, which essentially converts a semi-automatic weapon into a near-automatic weapon, to fire more than 500 rounds in just 9-11 minutes. He legally purchased his weapons and the bump-stocks. Making it harder to access a device that allows a person to kill others so swiftly might not end the mass shootings, but it will alleviate the ease of access, the speed at which terrorists can gun down victims, and allow the country to pause and evaluate next steps.
Healthcare matters. Whether diagnosed or not (Paddock was on anxiety medicine), potential mass shooters by definition could benefit from intervention by qualified mental health professionals. Not only is the stigma of mental healthcare a major issue in the United States, but access to it is extremely limited. It’s time to ensure that everyone has the means to seek care for themselves, not remove access to necessary healthcare.
Good deeds matter. Just as it is essential to work to fix the problems in this country, it is necessary to pause and reflect on the good in people. So many people helped one another -- from carrying the wounded off the concert grounds, to using their pickup trucks to transport victims to hospitals, to escorting wheelchair-bound concertgoers to an off-duty officer carrying a teen cancer patient to safety - it’s impossible not to recognize that Americans want and deserve a cohesive, generous, loving country. And we must work to unite, not divide, one another.