Guns Life and Life Only

After the Massacre: Thoughts on Guns, History, and Country Music

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

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


  • Celeste, you are right on the money and I appreciate your suggestions. For so long the progressive liberal democrats have been too worried about, all sort of issues “affecting” minorities, such social justice, and equality. They claim to care about justice for inmates, women, gay, blacks, browns, purples, reds, yellows, etc. They have forgotten about people such as Aldean’s fans and fail to listen to their needs. These liberal progressives, in my opinion, are a bunch of hypocrites who use their political views only to garnish political votes from the so-called disenfranchised to their benefit. Look at Obama a community organizer, living in an 8.1 million house in Washington currently shopping for a 10 million dollar apartment in Manhattan NY. I don’t know many justice warriors living with their constituents, I may be wrong, but they should so they may have a better understanding.

  • And Celeste takes this opportunity to remind us all how much White America sucks. See, In the past white people have done far worse, I feel better already.

  • I’m not left or right. All I’ve ever asked for is a reasonable median. I was waiting for the first news broadcast on “Gun Control,” which we know by now will never exist. I feel for Gifford and her passionate speech on needing to fight, but what are we fighting. It’s safe to assume that for the most part some these guns may have been bought legally. Gun violence has existed in America long before these domestic terrorist attacks. The “Why?” is not important to me and shouldn’t be to others. Let us just remember those we lost on Sunday. The corrupt and evil, have and will continue to have access to weapons far superior then your local law enforcement. The gun store and salesman on the street will always have revenue streams. Even if you passed laws to further restrict guns, your only helping those evil persons of the world. The are not purchasing their weapons legally, nor at your local gun store with background checks. You are disarming those Americans who wish to exercise their right to bear arms. Just like many other civil rights violations Celeste loves to mention on here, I and we have that right now.

    Maybe instead of restricting guns further, which will never happen. We could look at gun charges and make them stricter. Make punishments/consequences steeper. Why isn’t the argument to loosen the restrictions on the 4th amendment/search seizure. I think not right.

    In the end America needs not become more divisive, but join together. Focus on the traits shown by many on Sunday by helping and sacrificing to help others regardless of creed, race, etc. America needs to wake up and see what is happening. Become vigilant and not naive on todays society.

    Prayers (No offense to anyone) for all those in Vegas and all American.

  • Your post is worthy of being printed and given to every media, social media and news outlet throughout America. With everything going on (especially here in the U.S.) you called it ever so correctly in your 3rd paragraph, anyone who refutes it is definitely part of the problem.

  • Citizen, if you were referring to “Lips” third paragraph, of course we would all agree. Unfortunately, trying to get the country to join together on any issue for any period is like trying to herd cats. I agree, people should see the good that actually came out of the actions of our fellow Americans who helped each other, but any unity would be washed away with the next 24 hour news cycle – maybe give this one 72 hours. Even beyond that, what I see we need do to become together might be something that others might see as divisive and visa versa. Sad as seems we can’t even agree if we should stand to honor the flag that millions of Americans have died for.

    Instead, I found my head nodding at Lips’ second paragraph where he/she discusses concrete actions moving forward. Something that shows that things are going to change. His/her comments regarding enforcing gun laws specifically. Both sides have agreed that certain laws need to made to control the sale and possession of firearms. Why not strictly enforce the laws that we already have and apply those laws aggressively. Stop the revolving door of justice for illegally possessed guns. Mandatory sentencing. Get illegal guns off the streets. I’ve seen plenty of videos of gang members mugging for Youtube videos with their cache of weapons to know that there are plenty of guns floating around where they shouldn’t (I rather doubt that those were legally purchased nor possessed).

    You’ve got to start someplace. Hoping that things will get better because we want them too is just kicking the can down the road. – as the politicians have done for years. I know the LV shooter was no gang member mugging for a camera, but perhaps had we been enforcing our gun laws he might not have felt so emboldened to start buying the weapons he did – of course how and when he bought that stuff remains to be seen. But maybe, just maybe.

    Besides, as tragic as the 58 lives lost were (the shooter’s lost life was far from tragic) imagine how many MORE American lives could be saved if we removed illegal guns off the streets AND signifintly incarcerated those who sold, bought and possessed them. That is the real American tragedy that the politicians ignore. Just removing the guns do NOT do squat, those who want them just buy more – there are an estimated 340 MILLION guns in America, plenty to be had. Stiffen the penalties and throw offenders in jail for an extended stay. SEND A MESSAGE. Have an illegal gun go to jail!

    Now is the time for both sides of the aisle, both state and national, to nudge to the middle and do something affirmative. Give the police the legal tools they need and go after illegal guns, their sellers, buyers and possessors. If the politicians actually got off their high horses and did what is good for the country, by acting in a bipartisan manner, I think the hoped-for feeling of coming together – at least on this issue – might be possible, or at least a start. Otherwise, it’s the sameo, sameo.

    As far as the 4th amendment, that of course is in the Supreme Court’s purview. Perhaps with the appointment of Justice Gorsuch and possibly the retirement of Justice Kennedy, the Court’s views on certain aspects of search and seizure cases may, over time, change.

    4 years of college listening to lefty’s has given me an ear ache.

  • You can have gun control (is there such a thing?) and play “tic tac toe” with Supreme Court Justice’s all you want but neither will stop the “wackos” or the “home grown” domestic terrorists. You can scream and blame lefty or liberals until you turn blue from lack of oxygen and it will always be a nut, waiting in the wings.

  • FYI, it seemed to me that Poli Sci was not addressing the wackos or the home grown terrorists as much as the gun violence in general. His only specific comment about the LV shooting was that the “numbers” , although tragic, are only a small number of lives lost to gun violence. He also suggested that perhaps stricter enforcement of existing laws would make it harder for potential killers to obtain guns. Seems to me logical thinking.

    There are nuts off all colors and creeds.

  • We mourn the loss of lives in Las Vegas, then we immediately go into “gun control” conversation mode, so why isn’t that ASSHOLE labeled a TERRORIST? We pick and choose diffrent titles for different people doing the same bullshit. In San Bernardino, it was a TERRORIST attack as well as Florida, why? See where I’m going w/this.

  • Maybe Trump can learn to call a spade, a spade. The failure to call out things and people as they are, is hypocritical and troubling. A Terrorist cannot be called any other name but a Terrorist. We already know the additional outrage if this terrorist was of another ethnicity or a diffrent cultural. Let’s keep it real.

  • Good point, however witness la felt it was more important to remind us that approximately 100 years ago whites carried out worse atrocities against people of color. Wonder why witness la felt the need to make that point? Perhaps consciously or even subconsciously these just aren’t Celeste’s “kinda victims”

  • I don’t think that Celeste meant “more important” but surely as “equally important”. Those past atrocities are true examples of how others want to weaken the validity of past deeds in our great country by omitting them or making it a small blip in U.S. history.

  • Funny, I’ve never seen Celeste do this any time one of her pet victim groups get smoked by the cops. Like when Mike Brown got killed by officer Wilson, I don’t remember seeing Celeste going back 100 years and citing incidents where cops were killed by “unarmed” suspects. Might want to check on that, that is ,if you really care about the truth.

  • Hate to say it but where has ATF been they should have put this device out of business the first day it hit the market, in the gun shows its been out a while> it has been shown to the public in all the gun shows it was not a secret. shown on the you tube of hog shooting with the attachment

    Now every gun collector who has a AR will be buying them next week at the Vegas gun show!!!!!

  • Even more. Trump is a outspoken advocate of gun rights during his 2016 campaign, backed by NRA spending more than 30 million dollars supporting his candidacy. The NRA is totally against banning the “bump stock.” They support regulations in lieu of….really?

  • And yes, that would also include the terrorists who “kill at will” in the large urban cities such as Baltimore. Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, St Louis any many more cities in America on a smaller scale. To acknowledge this is a continuation of “keeping it real”.

  • Last week the wife and I were in Vegas for her birthday. We visited the memorial where the crosses for those slain have been erected and I checked out the Mandalay Bay, seemed like business as usual. I talked to more than one local about what if any added security measures would be coming and the only thing they spoke of was enhanced facial recognition hardware, that was it. No metal detectors, no additional security people, k-9’s but possibly one felt some training in being more aware of suspicious activity of guest exhibiting unusual behavior patterns and moving larger numbers of items into their room. They do not want to stop the ability of guests to quickly enter casinos though so being CCW is simple there. Not sure that’s a real wise idea but here they check women’s purposes but a guy can walk in carrying and nobody would know so no difference.

  • Unfortunately it’s all about the money and image of Las Vegas. God forbid if they use the true name of the murders calling it a “Terrorist Attack” (including Trump who has a vested financial interest with his real estate in Vegas.) I’m so friggin tired of the double and selective standards by the elite. Pathetic.

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