More than 50 concertgoers were killed Sunday night in Las Vegas and more than 400 were injured in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. By Monday morning, when we still knew nothing about the motives of alleged shooter 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, the politics had already begun.
Many Democrats immediately called for more gun control, noting that Nevada has some of the laxest gun laws in the U.S. However, it appears that the shooter used a fully automatic weapon already banned by federal law. And even the few exceptions to that law still leave it extremely difficult for individuals to get their hands on weapons so lethal. Such weapons are so “highly regulated” in the U.S. that it “was unclear how Paddock would have acquired an automatic weapon, if he did use one,” the Washington Post reported Monday.
In other words, it is highly likely that the shooter had an illegal firearm. If that’s the case, more gun laws would have done nothing to stop this tragedy.
Nor would “good guys with guns” stopped the shooting, something pro-gun advocates often say. Paddock carried out his carnage from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, out of reach of any legal firearms carriers below.
Those eager to make this tragedy about gun control are going to run into a lot of factual difficulties, not just political ones.
On the right, some were anxious to pin the killing on the left, radical Islam and even the government.
One of the more popular posts among conservatives was an apparent hoax that the far-left anti-fascist group Antifa was claiming the shooter as one of their own. Later, ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting, with some conservatives all too eager to share that story, as if ISIS didn’t already claim to carry out every mass killing capturing America’s attention. Officials say that at the moment there is no credible evidence ISIS was behind that attack.
So, no, it does not look like terrorists, of the socialist or Muslim variety, were behind this.
Trying to pin the blame on a seemingly run-of-the-mill MSNBC-loving Democrat became a sudden mission for too many rightwingers. Perhaps the wackiest attempt: The Gateway Pundit — a White House-credentialed, right wing site — claiming the shooter was a Rachel Maddow-loving anti-Trump Democrat named Geary Danley, who merely shared a last name with a woman of interest in the case. The evidence? “The briefest look at the viral threads and tweets falsely naming Geary Danley as the attacker makes it easy to guess why a bunch of right-wing trolls latched on to him,” the Washington Post reported. “His Facebook profile indicated that he might be a liberal.”
Then there were some in Alex Jones-land, an Infowars host named David Knight, who called the Las Vegas shooting a “false flag,” something Jones and his minions have claimed about virtually every mass shooting, ever. For conspiracy theorists, there is no such thing as an evil or deranged person committing a terrible act of violence. It’s always the government.
It’s disgusting how far conspiracy theorists have gone to claim Sandy Hook and other mass shootings didn’t really happen. But Alex Jones and others like him are simply the most extreme examples of ideologues eager to use national tragedies to advance their political agendas.
On this Monday, not even 24 hours since the worst gun massacre in American history, we should not be pointing fingers based on ignorance, half-cocked speculation or conspiracy theories. It is not only inaccurate, but worse, it’s disrespectful to the deceased and their families. We should be contemplating and learning, yes, but we should also be mourning.
Imagine what the families of the these victims must think to see the shocking sudden loss of their loved one become a platform for partisans and kooks. No one wants to hear that noise right now. It helps nothing and hurts many.
President Trump called the shooting “an act of pure evil” on Monday. He said of the victims’ families, “We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss.”
We can’t fathom or imagine it, which is why everyone, in this tragically tender moment, should stop politicizing it.