By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
Terror has struck again on American soil in the form of a White, male shooter identified by law enforcement as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who allegedly opened fire and killed 58 and injured 515 at a country music concert in Nevada at press time.
Multiple victims were transported to hospitals after a shooting late Oct. 1 at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. At about 11 p.m., dozens of patrol vehicles descended on the Strip after authorities received reports of an active shooter near the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Some officers took cover behind their vehicles while others carrying assault rifles ran into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo reported Mr. Paddock, an accountant from Nevada, killed himself. Police recovered at least 17 guns and explosives from his room.
Witnesses say country singer Jason Aldean was performing near the end of the concert when gunfire rang out. Concert-goers reported seeing muzzle flashes from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel-Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard and the sound of what they described as automatic gun fire.
Thirty-six-year-old Kodiak Yazzie said the music stopped temporarily and started up again before another round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.
As the tens of thousands of fans in the crowd began to flee, he took cover and said he saw flashes of light coming from the Mandalay Bay hotel tower high above.
The bursts of pops would start and stop for more than five minutes. He says he saw dozens of ambulances as he ran for safety.
Continued violence in America
Mr. Paddock’s Oct. 1 assault stunned a nation unable to stop deadly violence, begging the question, what is happening inside the United States? The Las Vegas tragedy is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history eclipsing the Orlando night club massacre last year.
“What’s striking about the United States is that this week, the move towards having some sort of gun control has already been swift,” said Dr. Gerald Horne, Moore’s Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.
At least that’s the way it appears, which is extraordinary given the fact that the now-deceased suspect apparently had several automatic weapons that he was able to bring into a hotel room in a major urban center, Dr. Horne said.
“This attempt to squash any conversation about gun control stands oddly in juxtaposition with what happened in 1967, when the Black Panther Party walked into the California State Assembly in Sacramento, with weapons, which led even the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby, to call for gun control,” Dr. Horne told The Final Call.
He continued, it’s apparent that gun control has a particular purpose: “The White Right, the Alt Right as it now terms itself, has made it clear that it doesn’t believe in gun control, because it wants to execute an armed uprising in case there is a government not to its liking.”For many, the Vegas massacre like others creates an initial shock, said Los Angeles-based social justice and political activist Greg Akili. Then reality sets in that they live in a violent culture focused on protecting and promoting guns, which produces mass shootings as a consequence, he said.
“We’ve seen it over, and over, and over again. The gun culture is popular. It’s protected. And it’s prevalent in America,” Mr. Akili told The Final Call.
As usual, he continued, people will grieve for the families of those killed, but as long as the culture promoting and accepting of gun violence remains, another shooting and killing more people is inevitable. Still, people seem unwilling to come to grips with that and do something about it, he stated.
“Look here! Twenty children were killed (in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre) and we still supported and were unwilling to do anything about gun culture in America, so we are just willing to accept the level of violence and death that gun violence brings. That’s America!”
A nation in mourning
“I’m quite saddened by the tragic killing in Las Vegas and every time a person’s life is lost. What we need to look into is the regulations in Las Vegas, Nevada. The laws that will allow a person to have ten guns on their person and don’t have to have a permit. And no mental health background check. Something is wrong with that,” said Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle- Nadal.
“I feel that instead of concentrating on external terrorists and building a wall to keep people out, we have home grown terrorists that we need to pay attention to,” she said. “It hurts when a life is taken because every single life is important,” Sen. Chappelle- Nadal continued.
President Donald Trump offered words of comfort to the families of the victims. He called the shooting an act of pure evil. “We are joined together today in sadness, shock and grief,” Pres. Trump said.
“Hundreds of our fellow citizens are now mourning the sudden loss of a loved one, a parent, a child, a brother or sister,” he said. “We cannot fathom their pain; we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you, and we are here for you and we ask God to help see you through this very dark period,” he added.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens it is our love that defines us today and always will, forever.”
‘White male lone wolf’ syndrome
With the death toll and injury count still climbing, authorities announced beliefs that Mr. Paddock acted alone.
Police questioned 62-year-old Marilou Danley, a female companion, initially considered a person of interest.
Police have not yet determined a motive in the shootings, but have ruled out connections with any terrorist group. This after reports indicated ISIS claimed responsibility.
“We have seen all those so-called lone wolves before. We saw ’em at Columbine, at Sandy Hook and they are considered lone wolves and in fact they are not lone wolves,” argued Mr. Akili.
Some of the other more deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. where suspects were lone, White males include: July 20, 2012 inside a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado resulting in 12 fatalities and January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz. that resulted in six fatalities and the severe wounding of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
“I know this feeling of heartbreak and horror too well,” Ms. Giffords stated in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting. “The massacre in Las Vegas is a grave tragedy for our nation. This must stop–we must stop this,” she added. Ms. Giffords and others have been pushing for stricter gun laws.
“I am praying for the victims of this shooting, their families and friends. But I am praying for my former colleagues, too. I am praying they find the courage it will take to make progress on the challenging issue of gun violence,” she said at a press conference.
But what if anything will change remains to be seen and many are not optimistic anything substantive will change at all when it comes to America’s obsessive gun culture.
“They live in a society that supports what they’re thinking, and it’s certainly been supported in these last few months with this current president, so we live in a society where their thinking is promoted. Their ideas are accepted, and their actions are tolerable,” Mr. Akili added.
Dr. Horne found it very curious that some commentators suggested the incident was not “an act of terrorism.
“I’m not sure how they’re arriving at that conclusion. I’m not sure how they’re defining ‘terrorism.’ It’s a very curious circumstance, and in any case, it also all comes back to gun control, the fact that weapons of this sort are all too easy to obtain by people who obviously do not need to have weapons,” he stated.
A way forward?
Moving forward means understanding that massacres keep happening in the first place, because America is dealing with symptoms and not root causes, said Aquil Basheer, author, a top specialist in street violence intervention and hostility based-gang aggression, and founder of the Professional Community Intervention Institute.
“The biggest problem in America has never been external or international terrorism. It’s always been domestic terrorism, and they’ve never admitted to that fact. … Why are we not calling this a blatant act of domestic terrorism?” Mr. Basheer told The Final Call.
“Why are we not putting a direct profile of the domestic terrorist, in this case which was a White male,” which has been the most instrumental in using domestic terrorism, he argued.
When that’s ignored, profile developments are missed, which leaves people unprepared to deal with pending threats.
“We’re ignoring the fact of who the actual aggressor is. We don’t want to admit to that in this country, so therefore, people are not able to create in their mindset a vision of what I must prepare for. … Violence leaves a road map. Violence leaves a trail. Violence always lets you know it’s getting ready to happen,” said Mr. Basheer.
(The Associated Press and J.A. Salaam contributed to this report.)