Shots fired! Shots fired!” A call that no one wants to hear came crackling over the Las Vegas police radio frequency at 10:08 p.m. this past Sunday. The gunfire snapped and bit into the soft warm air, filling the 22,000 concertgoers with sheer terror as the Route 91 Harvest Festival morphed from a simple country music concert into something resembling a war zone, as siege was laid from a 32nd-story window of the adjacent Mandalay Bay Hotel.
By night’s end, 59 people are dead or dying and more than 500 people are injured, and the alleged shooter, 64-year-old retired accountant Stephen Paddock, has killed himself, denying his victims and their families any explanation or reason for their horror.
Two years before, on the exact same date, Oct. 1, on the Umpqua Community College campus, 10:38 a.m.: Christopher Sean “Chris” Harper-Mercer walks into a writing class and commences a spree, killing nine and wounding nine more people before shooting himself.
These two incidents involve the deaths of dozens and have affected the lives of thousands, and remind us that regularly the world can be a violent place. These kind of events that have become a part of our modern life. Every day, when someone turns on the TV or radio, or decides to go online and look at the news, this kind of tragedy seems to be around every corner.
This is a world we have inherited but not a world that many of us would have asked for. Regardless of whether we are happy about it, though, this is the only world we have, and unless we change it, it’s not going to change.
In the U.K. and Australia, gun control seems to be the answer, though some research done that shows the strict gun control laws in these countries aren’t impacting or resulting in a stop to these events. Here in America, even if it was proven that anti-gun laws would work to stop this sort of spree, the current sharp split in public opinion would keep legislative action from happening anytime soon.
In the meantime, we need to find a solution that works and that we can implement today.
Where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us with ourselves. It leaves us with 323 million minds here to come up with solutions to this problem. In this country, the gun rights debate has been a constant one between fellow citizens since 1776, and while many of us have an opinion one way or another on this issue, the endless argument doesn’t solve anything.
We need to set aside this argument for a bit and focus our energy on solutions, rather than fighting over if something really is a problem, or not. There are a lot of smart students around here at MHCC, people who intend to make their way in the world as doctors, lawyers, politicians, policy makers and policy enforcers.
Our focus has to be on what we can do to improve this situation. We need to ensure not only that the people in charge currently are working toward that goal, but also make sure we’re discussing options with the people who will be in charge in the next five, 10, 15, or 20 years.
We at the Advocate share the anger, frustration, fear and hurt that most Americans are feeling this week. It is easy to let feelings make you want to change things and to make things different, so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. It’s logical for there to be a flare of gun control debate to rage on for the next while, but we need to put our focus elsewhere. (Especially while many details of the Las Vegas shooting remain unclear.) We can make a difference in the world about us: We should be looking at existing mental health programs to see how they can be used to help society help keep people from hurting others.
As a people, humanity is capable of great atrocities, but also of great compassion and foresight. Our focus needs to be on prevention, on finding the people who are likely to commit these types of crimes and getting them the counseling or guidance they obviously need before it gets to a crisis point.
This will need to be a cross-discipline solution: Psychiatrists, doctors, police, lawyers and lawmakers will all have to come together and find a way to recognize when someone is going down this kind of dark path, there are treatments and programs developed to get them back into the light.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” -Barack Obama