As we struggle to come to terms with Sunday night’s horrific events in Las Vegas, here are some worthwhile stories you might have missed, each of which provide small pieces of a very large and tragic puzzle.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: a couple of the stories have to do with the general issue of gun violence and gun regulation. If you feel it’s too soon for that discussion, you can skip past the gun-related stories and read about history and country music.)
Gun Control Tech and Mass Shootings
After every mass shooting we talk about firearms, a discussion that usually devolves into partisanship, which is unfortunate. In the last 36 hours, however, there are some interesting entries into the discussion. One of them is a story by Lily Mae Newman for Wired Magazine about gun technology and whether smart guns can help prevent mass shootings. Newman says the answer is no.
Gun tech can make guns safer, she writes, “but not in a way that can prevent many of the country’s most high profile attacks.”
The main thrust of the technological gun-control effort, writes Newman, has to do with so-called “smart” firearms technology. “That means smart guns, which can only be fired by their owner or approved users, and smart safes and locks that can only be opened by approved parties.”
Smart gun technology, has the “potential to reduce accidental shootings, and to make stolen guns less valuable. But they do nothing to prevent the legal owner of a firearm from using it in a malicious way.”
To illustrate the point, Newman quotes Margot Hirsch, the president of the gun safety advocacy group the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, who says that smart guns can save lives in the crucial arenas of “teen suicide,” and the kind of terrible accidental deaths that occur when kids get hold of their dad’s guns and shoot their brothers or sisters, and also in “disrupting the stolen gun market.”
Newman has more to say about the reliability of smart guns (which critics say can be hacked with $15 worth of magnets, but experts say are becoming more reliable daily) and where that part of the industry is going, all of which makes for interesting reading.
How Other Nations Have Dealt With Mass Murder, & the Certainty That American Will Have More
The Atlantic’s national correspondent, James Fallows, began writing about mass shootings after the massacre in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. He’s been writing about them ever since.
On Monday, after grieving for the “scores of people who have been killed and the hundreds who have been wounded in Las Vegas…” and the “thousands of other people, though not visibly or directly injured, have had their lives changed forever..” Fallows wrote about what he describes as “two dark truths the episode underscores.”
How you feel about what Fallows has to say may depend upon where you stand on the gun control legislation continuum. But, wherever you stand personally, his sorrow-laden essay makes for an interesting—and important—read. Here’s a short clip:
The first [dark truth] is that America will not stop these shootings. They will go on. We all know that, which makes the immediate wave of grief even worse…..I am an optimist about most aspects of America’s resilience and adaptability, but not about reversing America’s implicit decision to let these killings go on.
Decision? Yes. Other advanced societies have outbreaks of mass-shooting gun violence. Scotland, in 1996. Australia, in 1996 as well. Norway in 2011. But only in the United States do they come again and again and again….
No other society allows the massacres to keep happening. Everyone around the world knows this about the United States. It is the worst aspect of the American national identity….
There’s a lot more about how other nations have dealt with their own horrendous mass killings.
Why Everyone Needs to Stand With Jason Aldean Fans Right Now
Monday’s short, post-shooting essay by the New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich is quirky, and likely written hastily. Yet, it brings up an interesting point about how some American music has been politicized—particularly some mainstream country music, and also certain strains of hip-hop. She’s not so much saying that the music itself is politicized, but that certain groups tend to dislike certain kinds of music, which they see as the terrain of those whom they disagree with politically. So they are inclined to stay away.
Petrusich notes that the terrible killings and woundings in Las Vegas took place during the final night of the sold-out Route 91 Harvest festival of country music, partway through the set of the final night’s headliner, forty-year-old Jason Aldean, from Macon, Georgia.
Aldean’s newest single, writes Petrusich, “the anxious, foreboding They Don’t Know, refutes unkind presumptions about non-coastal, non-urban enclaves.”
Aldean is beloved, in part, she says, because he unerringly articulates the experiences and feelings many of his fans “that were otherwise unexpressed.”
Of course. The best artists do that for us.
Right now, she writes, “we should stand with [Aldean’s fans] and make their voices even louder.”
The point is hazily made, but is a good one. In fact, maybe one small but genuine step that everyone in this fractured country can take is to make an ongoing point of listening to each other’s music. Really listening. Closely.
Just a thought.
About That Deadliest Shooting Label
By mid-morning on Monday, there were few news outlets that did not brand Sunday night’s horrific massacre in Las Vegas as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Never mind that a closer look at the facts of the matter would lead one to see that the ghastly actions of Stephen Paddock produced the worst mass shooting in modern or recent history—but not in our nation’s recorded history.
As the day wore on, a few publications, like Fortune, dialed back the claim of deadliest ever, and listed other far earlier, and deadlier shooting tragedies that have scarred the nation.
There is, for example, the Colfax massacre—as Fortune’s Chris Morris pointed out–in which approximately 150 black men were murdered on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, in Colfax, Louisiana, by white Southern Democrats, making the killings the most murderous of the Reconstruction era.
We also found a smart Los Angeles Times story written by Laura J. Nelson in July 2016, after the terrifying Pulse Nightclub mass murder. In her story, Nelson politely mentioned that, although even her own newspaper, and other media outlets, had characterized the Orlando tragedy as the very worst, there were in fact, other far more lethal massacres in earlier, “darker chapters of American history.”
Nelson also wrote about the Colfax massacre, along with several violent, race-driven atrocities, like the 1921 Tulsa riots, during which a white mob attacked black residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma, burning the wealthiest black business district in the United States, killing an estimated 50 to 300 people.
Nelson also listed some of the unconscionable mass killings in the mid to late 1800s, like the Sand Creek massacre in which approximately 675 soldiers “rode toward a tribal campsite in eastern Colorado and opened fire, killing more than 165 Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members.”
More than half the dead were women and children, wrote Nelson, “according to the National Park Service.”
And then, of course, there was the more infamous battle at Wounded Knee, during which, at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, the U.S. 7th Cavalry shelled a peaceful Lakota encampment, resulting in between 150 and 300 Lokota dead, with more than 60 of those killed women and children, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Unfortunately, there are more where these came from.
In any case, by Monday evening, most news outlets had very quietly corrected their mistake.
The photo above shows seven of the thus far 59 shooting victims of Sunday’s mass murder in Las Vegas. You can see portraits of the rest of the victims at this slideshow by WSMV TV in Nashville, TN