After Las Vegas, a need to search for why

Las Vegas attack deadliest shooting in modern US history

Photos from the scene of the shooting at a concert that left more than 50 dead and more than 500 hurt in Las Vegas.
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Photos from the scene of the shooting at a concert that left more than 50 dead and more than 500 hurt in Las Vegas.

So now we know more. We know Stephen Paddock was a gambler, a gun guy, apparently something of a loner. We know he came prepared for violence and murder when he checked into his Las Vegas hotel room. But what we don’t know, what even his brother doesn’t know, is why he would kill nearly 60 people and wound 500 others from high atop a hotel in Las Vegas. They were innocent people in every sense. They’d apparently inflicted no harm or hardship on their killer.

The hardest search, and the most passionate one, the one that causes our anger to rise almost until it breaks us, is the search for reasons where they may be no reasons for the terror in Las Vegas – or Newtown, or too many other places where innocent people go for a good time or a movie or school – other than sheer madness.

But it’s important now, in the aftermath of what henceforth will be known in our troubled history of individuals who commit mass violence as “Las Vegas,” just as “Newtown” means to us the horrific deaths of 20 children in Sandy Hook elementary school in that Connecticut town in 2012, that we keep searching for reasons. What drives people to this? What are the signs that a storm might be brewing in the brains of those who wind up as history’s most infamous criminals because of the heinousness, the magnitude of their acts? We may never know, but we must keep trying.

It’s too simple to blame the “gun culture” that thrives in America like no other country. It’s too simple even to blame mental illness, though that’s certainly a factor. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two, but it just feels like there is some kind of sickness, thankfully rare but surely deadly, that drives individuals to this kind of violence.

America needs to make that part of the discussion which now must ensue. It needs to be a rational discussion, driven not just by those who favor strict gun control or by the well-funded lobby that now will gear up to remind members of Congress that their names on gun control legislation will mean well-funded names on their next ballot.

This is a time for a president who will put aside the hot rhetoric that drove him in his campaign rallies and his “friend in the White House” expressions to the National Rifle Association, who’s never fired a gun in military service and likely not anywhere except in some kind of high-society hunting club.

Yes, Donald Trump, after all his pandering to the anti-gun control crowd, is in a unique position to bring the country into a much-overdue, rational discussion about not just gun control but our penchant for violence. He must first lead the nation in grieving, and he has shown steps in that direction. But he can then lead the nation in a constructive – not emotional – discussion about how to stem the horror. Now we know more. But we have much more to learn.

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