When the Unthinkable Became Real
On my computer there sits a half-finished article wondering why we haven’t quite seen criminals and terrorists who rise to the level of Hollywood’s nastiest villains. I wondered why 9/11, the North Hollywood Bank shootout, the DC snipers, etc. were not commonplace. I mean, if a sane writer can think up this stuff for a plot, what about the crazy and depraved criminals out there? Why don’t they craft evil that our most terrifying fictional nightmares would envy?
Before Sunday night, the idea of a crazed sniper mowing down concert-goers from a makeshift machine gun nest would only be plausible in the pages of a comic book. Somehow, a caped crusader would save the day and all would be well. Not so. While many marvel at the numbers or rage over gun control, I am shaken by the utter fiendishness of this attack. Murder requires an abandoned and malignant heart. I’m not sure what evil is required to do so in the manner and amount we saw on the Strip, but it is heretofore unimaginably bad.
To put this in perspective, here in America such well thought out gun attacks have been the province of fiction, not reality. Even 9/11’s planes-into-buildings seemed like a dramatic ending when Tom Clancy forecasted something similar in one of his novels before it happened. At sundown on Sunday, hundreds of casualties shot from the sky didn’t seem plausible except in books or on the silver screen.
Author and former Navy SEAL Matt Bracken wrote in his novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic of a similar attack at a sports stadium with a sniper “lobbing” rounds into the crowd creating just as many awful casualties. In his book, at the time, it was unthinkable that any one individual would do something like this, so he had to blame it on a conspiracy by an out-of-control government, thus spurring on the plot.
Everyone looks for an explanation because it is hard to imagine that without sufficient cause, men just do things like this. Conspiracy theories are popular to explain events of this consequence because it is utterly terrifying to believe that it can happen anywhere, anytime, for essentially no reason. That is a fact of life that is too uncomfortable for many to face, thus the government or the Illuminati must have done it. Evil doesn’t need a conspiracy, it merely takes advantage of what is already at its disposal.
Reality is often stranger than fiction, but we are still surprised when horror leaps off the page. Author Morgan Robertson predicted both the Japanese lead Pacific war, lasers, and in his 1898 novella, The Wreck of the Titan, a superliner just like the Titanic sinking under similar circumstances. Just like 9/11 was an event that was beyond imagination, an attack like this could only be conceivable in fiction. At least until it happened.
Take The Dark Knight for example. The Joker dresses up hostages with masks and guns taped to their hands to be shot by the SWAT team. This is the kind of evil thinking we are facing; maximum casualties with minimum interference. Even the comparatively bad shooting in Aurora at the screening of The Dark Knight, relying on darkness and mistaking the shooter for a costumed movie-goer, wasn’t this demonic. Meticulous, but thank God the killer there chose a fairly limited venue that was easy for police to get to.
What happened last night was a worst-case scenario of tremendous proportion. Think of all the really evil bad guys in film, like in Swordfish where the “bad guys” or whatever put explosive belts on the hostages. Stuff like that is rare. It is highly unusual to see this level of intricate planning and dedication to pull it off. Without minimizing the humanity of the losses, events like Orlando were so deadly because of luck, not planning on the part of the shooter. We have been blessed.
Comparing the events of fiction to this event are the only to really contrast just how nefarious the killer was. We see movie villains like Lex Luther, the Joker, or Bane and think “no one could be that evil.” Yes, they can. It is new experience to see, on our streets, an American who stops and plots out a massacre that would make a screenwriter ill to conceive of. Imagine if every high profile killer took the time to do what this monster did? Imagine if this was a normal occurrence? It would be our collective dread, hurt, and fear magnified many, many times.
The concert plot was so diabolical, it exceeds the comparatively slap-dash and amateur events in Orlando and San Bernardino. The killer thought big; something that gives terrorism experts nightmares. This was deliberately intended to be very bad and horrific on a magnitude we have rarely seen. The circumvention of possible “failure points” was what took this far beyond what we have seen before. It was all coldly planned by an intelligent mind to maximize destruction and eliminate interference.
Let’s look at what he did to make this so awful:
Just as the attack showed the worst that humans are capable of, the online and political response are showing that many politicians, “journalists”, and celebrities, plus your average Internet user, are insensitive. The trolls are pouring out of the woodwork, blaming Nevada Carry and anything and everything related to our sacred right for Sunday night’s tragedy. Many from the UK have sent emails laying personal blame at our feet or suggestions that show a tragic lack of knowledge about guns, violence, and evil.
One ghoul insisted that our liberal gun laws (intended to maximize where you can protect yourself) were at fault. “Hey, look at Nevada. You can open carry in a bar!” Totally not germane to this incident, tasteless, and frankly, it could have helped in Orlando. When you have no argument, but you have an agenda, you take cheap shots. Open carry is not at issue here. No reasonable measure, legal or otherwise, could have prevented this. All the gun control, mag cap bans, and assault weapon regulations didn’t help in California.
Many people are unable to process how such evil can exist and to console themselves, lash out angrily at any available scapegoat. How do you understand the complex? How can you fathom bottomless evil? These emotional eggshells need to vent the sadness they cannot fathom because they have no other internal mechanism to deal with what they are feeling. Guns and gun rights advocates take the brunt of this pain because we support the right to own dual-use items. Items that can be used by evil men, true, but have also safeguarded individual lives and national freedom.
Things like heated political rhetoric in the media, the violent ideology of Islam, mental illness, acid, trucks, or immigration are harder topics to personalize and relate to the cause of terrorism and violence. Unable to understand the nuances, these emotionally fragile individuals go after those who “everyone” says it is okay to blame; gun owners. It’s okay, we can take it. We just feel sorry for them. We all hurt in different ways.
The media should know better, however. Every request for an interview I have gotten was about Nevada gun laws; specifically machine guns and magazine capacity. Wrong track entirely; this was about the evil in a human heart, not machinery. In Europe, since guns are banned, we see truck/van attacks, acid assaults, and knife sprees. But even there, the Paris terrorists who massacred the crowds inside the Bataclan theater obtained illegal weaponry. Where there is a will, there is a way. Talking about limiting the amount of acid that can be purchased to stem acid attacks is dumb.
But it’s not about gun laws or “understanding” them. Many Europeans have written me to tell me that guns are the problem (in not so nearly polite or succinct terms). No, like Muslim terror in Europe which is seeking murder by any method, the problem is human. One outlet asked me to “debate” Nevada gun laws; no thank you. Screaming at each other is not how a Briton understands American gun laws and that nothing could have prevented this. We’re happy to inform, but not to argue or provide scapegoats. The media has not been responsible when it comes to fairly representing gun owners.
Countless examples of the media being insensitive are all over Facebook and Twitter. Politicians immediately jumped on the gun control bandwagon. It’s too early to know for sure, but no amount of gun control could have prevented this. Literally nothing reasonable could have stopped this from happening until the SWAT team forced the killer to end his life. Using this to politicize and market gun control is despicable. Politicians have no shame and few actually care about your safety. We don’t need to talk about this, we know the truth already.
For those who still wonder, particularly inquiring international minds that truly want to know, we’ll answer a few questions/statements.
What if he used a suppressor/silencer, as Hillary Clinton tweeted shamefully? Did anyone ask Hillary how our laws against murder prevented this? People would still have noticed the massive amount of gun fire pouring down on them and heard the bullets’ impact. Also, suppressors only moderate the sound by about 30db, meaning the shots would still be 100db plus. Where can you run when there is nowhere to run?
Machine guns are legal in the United States and anyone eligible to own a firearm can obtain one, if they have the money. True military assault rifles cost tens of thousands of dollars. All legal machine guns are registered and require a background check (with photo and fingerprints) that currently takes six months to a year to pass before one obtains the gun. A $200 tax is required as well. Any competent machinist can modify a weapon, or build one outright, to be fully automatic. Even pulling a trigger rapidly can result in a 300-400 rounds per minute rate of fire.
“No concealed carrier could have prevented this.” In many other events, had an armed citizen been present, the shooting may have been stopped early. This was certainly the case at the Kentucky church last weekend where an usher ran to his car, grabbed his gun, and held the killer at gunpoint. Consistently, we see armed citizens stopping these events or the killer committing suicide when police arrive. Even Sunday’s monster killed himself when SWAT arrived. Not in this event, but in some, citizen carriers can and havesaved lives.
“The gun helped.” Yeah, no s---. We accept the trade-off in America. At least 100,000 Americans every year use guns to stop or prevent a crime. I bet lots of people would be alive in Marseille if France had outlawed and confiscated anything larger than a Mini Cooper. How many people would howl if commercial trucks were banned for safety’s sake? Unless we want to ban every harmful substance (including alcohol) and bubble-wrap the world, everything is dangerous.
More metal detectors and security theater aren’t the answer. Casinos actively banning or throwing out concealed carriers just makes it more dangerous for people on the Strip, where tourists, workers, and residents are regularly targeted by criminals for more pedestrian crimes. Keeping self-defense pistols out of the hands of ordinary, law-abiding citizens to seem like one is “doing something” will help nothing. This wasn’t a guy with a pistol, this was a man who turned a hotel room into a killing center. Open carry and average folks with guns aren’t the problem. Evil happens and we are often powerless to prevent it.
What does 10 rounds or 30 rounds matter if the death penalty or execution aren’t a deterrent? Machine gun killers are as rare as the guy with armored bulldozer who went on an unstoppable rampage. Men smart enough to plan this kind of atrocity can find ways around restrictions. More gun control won’t do a thing. In Australia, the Port Arthur massacre spurred gun control laws, but the Monash University still happened. In the UK, the Dunblane massacre brought more laws, but in 2010, Cumbria faced a similar situation. Again, what did California’s laws do to mitigate the losses in San Bernardino?
The only sensible precautions are to avoid large events like this and to get medical training. First-aid skills and equipment specifically to treat traumatic injuries like gunshots is vitally important in events like this. We will no doubt hear stories of off-duty EMTs, nurses, doctors, etc. treating victims with whatever was at hand like belt tourniquets. Carrying an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) everywhere on your body isn’t paranoia after this.
Las Vegas has faced mass horror like this before. When the original MGM burned, we survived as a city, an industry, and a people. There is not much that can be done about a psychotic sniper, but perhaps, as humans and as a nation, we can learn something about evil and how to respond and react during a tragedy like this.
What can you do? Give blood and continue to give blood. I donate regularly, do you?
Get first-aid and advanced medical/EMT training. Don’t just learn to shoot.
Love your family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen. We’ve got a heart problem and hate and divisiveness will only make things worse.
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Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West