I wanted to write this blog in part as a form of therapy. Of all the emotions that are clouding my head right now about what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 1, 2017, sadness, anger and confusion are what I feel the most. I also wanted to write this blog in hopes of inspiring not only myself, but hopefully others to really think about the big picture and figure out a solution. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how to make all the hatred and pure evil in this world to cease; I don’t think anyone does.
Just like numerous other Americans, I often feel immensely sad about such a tragic event for about a day or two and then continue on my life as usual, often feeling apathetic and like I as one individual cannot enact positive change. Coming together as a nation and being kind to one another can only accomplish so much. Compassion is not going to bring back 59 innocent lives. Compassion is not going to prevent another mass murder. Compassion is not going to get rid of guns in America, only stricter gun control laws can do that.
People constantly ask my why I’ve decided to move to Australia. Not only do I absolutely love my partner, my friends and everything about Melbourne, but this country makes me feel safe. In 1996, the largest massacre in Australian history occurred in Tasmania when the perpetrator shot and killed 35 victims in open fire. The Australian gun laws changed almost overnight. The gun stores held a massive buy-back, then destroyed the weapons and Australia hasn’t had a deadly incident of that caliber since. If it only took one mass murder to affect change in the Australian government’s stance on gun control laws, how come the seemingly endless number of mass murders in the United States hasn’t changed?
Most recently in Melbourne, a man recklessly and purposefully drove down Bourke Street Mall, one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the city, murdering six people with his vehicle this past January. Six months later, Melbourne took action to prevent another senseless act of violence. The city installed over 100 large cinderblock bollards at some of the CBD’s most populated foot traffic areas, thus stopping any cars from driving through or on busy sidewalks. They are an extreme eye sore, but I know that with all of the artists in this city, someone will find a way to turn this increased safety measure into more quirky street art. I feel privileged and proud to be allowed to live in a city and a country where they take violence so seriously and actually do something about it.
The reason why the Las Vegas shootings particularly upset me so much is because I know who the victims are, if not personally. Concerts and music festivals are my sanctuary. When I called my mom and talked about what had happened, she was equally bothered by the fact that so many victims in that crowd were people my age. They’re people who love country music. They’re people who wear flip flops and jean skirts to concerts. They’re people who can’t wait to grab a cold Bud Light and dance with their friends. These people are just like me and my friends. My mom even said to me that it would be nothing for me to have said to a few people, “Hey this festival has an awesome lineup and sounds like fun. Let’s go!”
It haunts me to think that my two best friends and I were staying at the Luxor, right next to Mandalay Bay and directly across from the festival, two years ago to this exact weekend. Even though we didn’t attend the 2015 Route 91 Harvest Festival, I’ve seen the grounds. When we got off the monorail from the Excalibur, Kayla and I danced to Keith Urban when he headlined that Friday night. I can picture the horror in my mind. The Las Vegas Festival Grounds are nothing more than a large open field. There is no shelter whatsoever. One of the worst victim quotes I read when she described their two options: you could either stay, get shot and die or run, get shot and die. Those innocent souls had nowhere to hide.
The chaos that unfolded that Sunday night cannot be described as anything less than a war zone. There’s a video that a man took of himself running through the crowds screaming, “I just saw her head get blown off. I just saw her F***ING HEAD GET BLOWN OFF.” That is a beyond traumatizing image that will haunt that young man for the rest of his life. The civilians from that Sunday night were not in active military duty. These were people enjoying their weekend in Las Vegas at a country concert. If we as Americans are fortunate enough to not live in a third world country, then why are we as Americans unfortunate enough to allow these devastating situations to keep happening?
Why does someone, anyone, need multiple rifles? How was Steven Paddock able to get over 23 –over, TWENTY THREE—firearms into a hotel suite at Mandalay Bay? Didn’t it look suspicious when he carried 13 suitcases upstairs to his room on the 32nd floor? THIRTEEN suitcases. My mother and I travel a lot and we don’t even own 13 suitcases between the two of us. How was he able to smash through not one, but two of the thick pane windows on the Las Vegas strip without anyone hearing anything?
After September 11, 2001, things changed; things changed around the world. Airport and nationwide security increased dramatically as numerous precautions were put in place to ensure that something like this would never happen again. If things were able to change after that devastation, how come things still haven’t changed after the countless horrifying mass murders that continue to occur in the United States? If we’re not affected enough by 12 deaths in the 2012 Aurora movie theatre shootings in Colorado, when will we be? If we’re not affected enough by 20 very young school children and six adult staff members being fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary, when will we be? If we’re not affected enough by the murder of 49 innocent lives in the Orlando nightclub shootings, which up until last week was the largest mass shooting in the U.S., when will we be? How horrific must these tragedies become in order for a change to happen? Does it have to be of the magnitude of 9/11 where nearly 3,000 needless casualties occurred in order to affect change?
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution allows “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” However, I strongly do not believe that our forefathers intended for any one person to own guns in excess. Steven Paddock possessed an additional 19 firearms in his home. If owning a total of 42 guns isn’t excessive for one individual, then I don’t know what it. Gun control laws in America should not be a democrat versus republican debate. As Jimmy Kimmel so honestly stated in his speech on gun control, this is a public safety concern. To me, this should just be a common sense debate. How can anyone raise a child in this world and make them feel safe anymore?
Even though I am not completely well versed in guns or the specifics of our current gun laws from state to state, I strongly believe that gun control needs to be reformed in the United States of America. If banning guns entirely is completely out of the question, then how about we start with banning automatic and semi-automatic weapons? Or strictly limit the number of firearms one individual can possess? If people feel strongly about their right to bear arms for the security of self defense, then wouldn’t only one pistol per person be sufficient?
If others feel the same way that I do, I encourage you to write your council and let them know how you feel. For what it’s worth, I am going to contact a handful of government authorities and share my thoughts with them. I don’t know how to make things change, but if our government feels enough pressure from the public, maybe things might improve. Or maybe they won’t. I don’t know. But all I know is that thoughts and prayers, sympathy and love, are not going to change the evil in this world. Something more must be done otherwise things will just continue to escalate. We cannot let 59 innocent souls die in vain. Enough is enough and it’s time that things need to change.