We join the rest of the world in expressing our shock and revulsion on the wanton massacre perpetrated by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who last Sunday opened fire on a concert hall packed with 22,000 innocent men and women on the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada, USA. The blood-thirsty gambler killed 58 people, injuring 527, many of whom are still battling for their lives in various hospitals. He then turned the murder weapon on himself. It is the worst mass murder in the United States in modern history.
Stephen Paddock has presented US authorities with several riddles because he did not fall into the profile of regular mass killers of whom the United States is familiar. He could not be considered to be mentally disturbed. He has a pilot’s licence. He was not a poor, deprived, disgruntled, struggling man of colour. He was white, rich, privileged, such that the room he occupied in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino from which he unleashed the murderous attack was given to him for free because he was considered by the hotel as a great gambling customer. He is said to wager tens of thousands of dollars each time he visited.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still trying to figure out the motive of the slaughter because there is yet no clue as to what triggered the senseless carnage. His brother, Eric, says he knew no reason. His girl friend, Marilou Danley, says she believes he deliberately offered her flight tickets to travel and wired $100,000 to her abroad apparently to keep her away while he concluded his murderous plans. And Stephen Paddock’s plan was almost perfect. His 32nd floor room in the hotel had a commanding view of the Vegas Strip where thousands of fans were dancing to country music. But when the final chapter of this mass murder is written and the Second Amendment of the US Constitution (which guarantees the freedom to bear arms) is cited, some questions are bound to be raised why the law permits a man to acquire 30 assault weapons in 13 months and own a total of 47 highly lethal weapons. Paddock had an arsenal enough to equip a commando platoon.
It is still considered an act of providence that he had nearly a dozen guns in the hotel room and a limitless supply of ammo; yet he opened fire on the crowd for roughly 12 minutes. No one is sure why he stopped when he did, for between the opening shot, recorded by the Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and the Police breaching of the killer’s room, was an interval of 75 minutes.
The saddest part of this carnage is that it is likely, as others before it, to end up just as statistics of mass murders instead of a call to action. On December 14, 2012 at Newtown, Connecticut, 20 little children, the oldest was seven, were slaughtered with seven of their teachers in the Sandy Hook Elementary School. President Barack Obama wept, as did thousands of Americans. That massacre of innocents could not wake up a paralysed US Congress to take a second look at gun laws in America.
On January 8, 2011, US Representative, Gabrielle Giffords, and 18 others were shot at a constituency meeting at Tucson, Arizona; six died, including a federal judge. Mrs. Giffords, one of the brightest members of the House, was shot on the head and for a while no one thought she would survive. Even the shooting of a Congress woman could not ginger the US Congress to look into the dysfunctional firearms laws of the United States. On June 12, 2016, 49 were killed in a gay night club in Orlando, Florida.
On December 2, 2015, 14 were killed in San Bernadino. On October 1, 2015, nine were killed at Umpqua Community College, Rosenburg, Oregon another nine were killed inside the historic Emmanuel African Church, Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has frustrated all Congressional attempts to enact laws that make sense concerning firearms. The association frustrated President Obama. Now the NRA’s champion, its candidate, President Donald Trump, is in the White House, and the Republicans, who have always been against any such changes, control all the levers of power in Washington DC. There is thus no hope for any change. Yet, it is a disgrace that the massacres can go on as if life has no meaning to Americans.