By Tom Cardella
I confess. I have watched only a few minutes of the TV coverage of the carnage in Las Vegas. That’s all. I’ve seen it all before. Heard all the arguments. Seen video clips of people frantically scurrying for cover amidst sounds of gunfire. Heard the screams of the victims. Heard the anguished words of those left behind. Heard the calls for prayer. Seen the flowers laid on the site of the bloodshed. Heard the pious refrains from the politicians. Heard the commentary by TV reporters using their most solemn tone. Listened to the endless speculation on why he did it (it’s almost always a white male for whatever reason).
All of us can predict what will be said, who will say it. All of us know nothing will change. That soon there will be another gunman who decides to slaughter the innocent and then shoot himself. It’s all part of a ritual. An American ritual. These tragedies occur so frequently that they disappear from our memory banks with increasing rapidity. Will the Las Vegas killings even resonate by the time this column appears 10 days later?
I avoid watching it, after the initial news bulletin. As much of it as I possibly can. Why? It’s not that I don’t care. I worry as much as you that one of my loved ones will be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, when the next shootings take place. But I find the entire horrible post-slaughter scenario an unintentional cruel charade. It is not only that the murders don’t make sense. It is that our political resistance to change gun laws is obscene. If America didn’t do anything after Sandy Hook when 20 children were slaughtered, I have lost faith that we will ever do anything. I reason that I’m better off watching reruns of “The X-Files.” So, I tune out the “noise” that inevitably follows the latest mass killings.
I’m not against legal gun ownership. I’m not against hunting so long as the species being hunted is not endangered and all the hunting laws are obeyed. I’m not even against gun collecting, so long as the firearms being collected are no longer able to be fired.
I’m also not a Pollyanna, who believes you can totally prevent the kind of tragedy that happened in Las Vegas last week. I’m not against the Second Amendment, although I wish that those who support a strict interpretation of that amendment were as interested in the rest of Bill of Rights. And as much as I abhor the complicity of the National Rifle Association in preventing reasonable gun legislation, I won’t join Keith Olbermann in calling them a “terrorist” organization. But what I am for is universal background checks, closing loopholes selling guns, and while we’re at it — banning weapons that can keep firing bullets continuously. No, we can’t prevent mass murder, but we can minimize its likelihood. And if any or all of this makes it inconvenient for you, then it’s tough. If your inconvenience means fewer deaths, then so be it.
Everything the shooter did in Las Vegas was legal, except the killing. He apparently used a “bump stock” device that allows you to shoot 400 to 800 rounds a minute. The contribution of this mass murderer to this tragic aspect of American history is that he became the first (but certainly not the last) to use what constituted an automatic weapon. He set a new record for slaughter by a single gunman. And you know how much we are into setting records in this country. Our singular achievement in America is that we have made mass murder commonplace. Might as well stop the column and instead write another smart-ass column about President Trump’s misadventures.
I repeat nothing will be done. Nothing meaningful will come of any of this. Brutal? Harsh? Fatalistic? Yes. I am usually an optimist. I usually side with those who believe that the arc of history bends toward justice, that things are getting better. Two steps forward for every step back. But right now — at this moment — I begrudgingly embrace the reality of life in America in the 21st century. I can exist in denial no longer. I can no longer believe that when it comes to guns we will choose sanity over insanity, logic over illogic, reasonable compromise over divisive partisanship.
I am fully prepared to receive letters from some of you explaining why it is that I know nothing about guns and am just another bleeding-heart liberal. I have received those letters before. I know them now by heart.
All that is left in the coming days is familiar chatter on the cable news networks. Why is mass murder the exclusive province of white males? A twisted chromosome? Why did he do it? As if by uncovering the motive we could make sense of it. What possible motive could there be that could explain raining bullets down upon the heads of people you don’t know and have never met? A bad day at the office? The end of a relationship? Lousy luck at the gaming tables? The color of the drapes in your swank suite on the 32nd floor?
You can wait for Anderson Cooper to make sense of it for us. But I’ve already changed the channel.