Gun violence is no longer a question of “if” because it’s no longer a question. Who. What. When. Where. How. Why. Only the why, as The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wrote in a column on Monday, is really unknowable in this vicious cycle. Almost daily, all we have to do is change names, times and locations to discuss America’s mass shootings. Our descriptions are sad staccato statements of fact, as inevitable as the sunrise. That’s no exaggeration. Monday was the 275th day of the year, and gunviolencearchive.org lists 273 mass shootings in 2017 so far.
Sunday’s was the worst in modern U.S. history.
A 64-year-old man killed dozens and injured hundreds from a high-rise hotel, armed with at least 23 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Before Sunday, there had been only five mass shootings – with four or more people shot at the same time and place – since 1949 with more than 20 fatalities. Rounding out the top five was the 1984 San Ysidro, Calif., McDonald’s massacre that left 21 adults and children dead.
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The images of Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas will also live long in our collective memories, especially an image of the 32nd floor of the gleaming Mandalay Bay Resort with two windows eerily broken. But what will linger longer is the sounds of so many rounds being fired savagely and indiscriminately at the teeming, celebratory concert crowd below. It was a sustained sound more closely associated with war zones than a night out in the heart of a major American city in the year 2017.
Gunman Stephen Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nev., with no criminal history, shot and killed himself when police responded to his room. His brother Eric said the shooter was not “an avid gun guy at all,” said “He’s just a guy who lived in Mesquite who liked burritos,” said, “We don’t understand. … This is like it was done, like he shot us.”
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman used fewer words, “This is a crazed lunatic full of hate.”
Monday morning, President Donald Trump spoke to the nation in somber, unifying terms.
“In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness,” Trump said. “The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”
Following corrosive weekend tweets from the president casting doubt on North Korean diplomacy, casting aspersions on Puerto Ricans and casting NFL players protesting during the national anthem as villains, Trump offered us more reassuring words on Monday. Lacking an opening for attack, the president said what we all needed to hear. Just don’t expect his combative style to change.
This is the president we elected. And this is the country we built. Yes, we will mourn, give blood, offer prayers. We will search for meaning, find hope and heartache. We will – again – discuss gun laws, mental health issues, belief systems, the police response, the political response and the media response. We will look over our shoulders – or to the skies – out of fear, for a while. We will wonder, ‘What now?' But we already know. It’s not a question at all.