Once again, someone with a gun has turned an American playground into a killing field. Once again a man — and it’s almost always a man — has committed what by now is the most American of acts, in this case wielding fully automatic military-style firearms to mow down a staggering number of innocent people. Not in self-defense, not in the heat of battle, not in pursuit of any clearly defined objective, but simply to satisfy some inchoate rage, frustration or alienation. Scores of people have died and more than 500 were wounded in Las Vegas – America’s fun capital – where police say 64-year-old Stephen Paddock rained bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 22,000 people attending an outdoor country music festival.
Although the final toll has yet to be confirmed, it is already the deadliest shooting in the United States. Earlier such mayhem happened on a baseball field, a nightclub in Orlando, a holiday party, malls and even actual school playgrounds — in Townville, S.C., Chicago and Kansas City in the last year alone. Shootings have become so commonplace in the United States that they most rarely make the national news. The previous deadliest shooting came in June 2016 when 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was also the latest in a series of recent deadly attacks at concert venues.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, had pledged allegiance to IS and it claimed the attack. Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, there have been at least 1,518 mass shootings, with at least 1,715 people killed and 6,089 wounded, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The database defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are killed or injured. In the developed world, America is alone in this level of carnage. It’s not just mass shootings – greater access to guns has led to increased suicides. Most Americans favour many policies to control guns.
These include preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, requiring background checks for private gun sales and purchases at gun shows, and creating a federal database to track gun sales, according to the Pew Research Center. Donald Trump was briefed on the “horrific tragedy”, the White House said, and the US president took to Twitter to offer his “warmest condolences and sympathies” to victims and families.Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by the “senseless tragedy” while Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May called it an “appalling attack.” President Trump called the massacre in Las Vegas “an act of pure evil,” and no one would disagree.
The shooter’s brother described him as “just a guy,” and no one knew much more. Without providing any evidence to support the claim, the Islamic State group has said the gunman was “a soldier” from its ranks who had converted to Islam months ago. The extremist group has a history of exaggerated or false claims, including earlier this year, when it claimed an attack on a casino in the Philippines that turned out to have been a botched robbery carried out by a heavily indebted gambling addict. The attack had left dozens of people dead.
The IS named the purported attacker as “Abu Abd el-Bar al-Amriki (the American),” saying he responded to calls by the group’s top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to “target the countries of the Crusader coalition” battling the extremist group in Iraq and Syria. Police have identified the shooter as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, and have said he killed himself after the shooting. Authorities have not commented on his religious background or said what might have motivated the attack. But the fact remains that most IS attacks have been carried out by much younger men. The IS group often claims attacks by individuals inspired by its message but with no known links to the group.
As the death tolls in these mass shootings are escalating at a rapid pace in recent years, and they are occurring in places that are part of the natural fabric of life, experts feel that the US Congress should ponder over ban on assault-style rifles and limit the size of magazines, expand background checks on guns purchased in so-called private sales, such as gun shows and over the Internet, make it more difficult for people with mental health issues to buy guns and flag anyone attempting to purchase a gun who is or has been under investigation for terrorism by any federal agency.