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6 Oct 2017

It’s Yours

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October 6, 2017 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE CARTOON:  Christopher Weyant, The Boston Globe

It’s time that we had a serious conversation about America’s obsession with guns and when folks are going to start taking responsibility for it.

By Denise Clay

When he started raining bullets on attendees of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival Sunday night, Stephen Paddock forced “attend an outdoor concert” onto the list of things that Americans can’t do without fear of getting shot.

The rest of the list, in case you forgot, includes: go to kindergarten (Newtown, Massachusetts); go to the movies (Aurora, Colorado); go to church (Charleston, South Carolina); hit a nightclub (the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida); go to college (Virginia Tech); go to high school (Columbine High School) or go to the office Christmas party (San Bernadino, California).

Americans woke up on Monday morning to learn that the 64-year-old retired accountant had sprayed bullets from the 23-gun cache of weapons he brought with him to the Mandalay Bay Hotel onto festival goers, killing 58 and injuring more than 500. Shortly before the Las Vegas Police Department’s S.W.A.T. team burst in to subdue him, Paddock killed himself.

My guess is that he did this because he saw them coming. According to the Washington Post, Paddock had the hallway outside his 32nd Floor suite wired with cameras.

While it wasn’t the largest mass shooting in modern American history—that would be the Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma—the shootings in Las Vegas have brought up the kinds of issues that these shootings seem to bring up such as gun control, mental illness, and media coverage.

Gun control is probably not going to go anywhere, I’m sorry to say.

Despite the fact that Paddock used high-capacity magazines with so-called “bump stocks” to give them that automatic weapon zing, and the fact that a search of dude’s home yielded more guns and even some explosives—because what’s a good mass murder if you can’t also blow things up—Congress isn’t interested in that. Heck, until voters started giving them the side-eye for holding the vote this week, the House was going to vote on a bill that would allow more folks to have access to gun silencers.

We might talk about mental illness, but only in terms of the fact that among the gifts that Donald Trump gave the National Rifle Association when he became President of the United States was to weaken the laws that kept guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Since folks are using the word “troubled” to describe him, it’s going to come up.

But because the words “lone wolf” and “loner” and the sentence “We can’t believe that this person was in our neighborhood” have already come out of the mouths of White folks in interviews regarding this massacre, we definitely need to talk about news coverage.

And while we’re at it, we might also want to talk about soul searching.

Because in a country where even discussing gun control can lead to the question “What about Black-on-Black Crime?!” being asked by the Press Secretary for the President of the United States, it might be time for White folks to do some of the introspection that they demand of us.

When Paddock broke the windows in his suite and aimed his gun at concertgoers, he continued a tradition of “White Guys Shooting Up Everybody” that tends to be excused or blown off by the American media as a random White guy doing something unexpected.

Unfortunately, the list of mass shootings I referenced at the top of this column puts the lie to that. Which is why I don’t understand the tendency of the media to act like it is.

I understand that on some level, holding White men accountable for the actions of one of their own is unfair. But so is allowing them to be the only group that’s able to separate itself from the actions of one of their crowd.

If Stephen Paddock were a 64-year-old Black retired accountant that shot up the Coachella Festival during hip-hop artist Chance The Rapper’s set, we’d be having a conversation about how rap music was ruining the country and how the folks who were shot should be held accountable for their injuries or demise.

But we’re not. We’re also not having a discussion of the kinds of commonsense gun laws that would keep AR-15 assault rifles and high-capacity magazines with “bump stocks” out of the hands of folks who don’t realize that the only thing they’re good for hunting is people.

The White men in Congress are the ones that could do something about this. But we’re not asking them to because soul searching is hard.

But since they’re the ones that appear to like killing lots of people by taking large amounts of big guns with lots and lots of bullets and shooting up public places, it might be time.

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