There is no way to make sense of the senseless.
On a Sunday evening in Las Vegas, a 64-year-old man rains death on an outdoor country music festival. Firing hundreds of rounds, he commits a well-planned massacre.
Dozens die. Hundreds more are wounded, some critically. Thousands more — concertgoers, family, friends – will find their lives forever altered.
To say the shooter’s act defies comprehension is to state the obvious.
Millions of Americans own guns. Few use them as instruments of mass chaos and carnage.
Millions of Americans are in their 60s. Few commit slaughter.
Millions of Americans struggle with mental illness — murder is not a sane act, even though jurisprudence sometimes judges it as such — yet few resort to homicidal violence.
And so, it is useless to automatically blame firearms or mental illness or whatever else for Stephen Craig Paddock’s butchery undertaken from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
Yet surely, we can all agree that something is dreadfully wrong — deadly wrong — in our culture. Something enables mass violence to proliferate. Something allows humans to take out their societal and personal grievances with deadly precision.
We exist in a culture that increasingly has become “us vs. them,” from politics to standard of living to personal vendettas. However, blaming anyone, from the president to the neighbor next door, will achieve nothing. Rather, we as an American people must get it together … and bring ourselves together as one.
How can we, as you and I and everyone else, overcome the causes that impel some people to the madness of massacre? How do we spot the signs — presumably of social isolation or of beyond-the-norm anger and unresolved rejection — that foretell impending violence?
A lesson of the 2015 shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg is that lots of people saw oddities in the days and weeks beforehand, but no one put them all together. Without becoming the Big Brother of George Orwell’s “1984” or the authoritarian society of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” we — family members, friends, teachers, colleagues — must become better at noticing and better at alerting, even when we don’t know whether our little piece amounts to anything,
Or whether there even is a puzzle to be solved by authorities.
As for firearms, they reflect a societal truth. Bad things come from good things carried to extreme. Used properly, a firearm has a legitimate, worthwhile role. Used wrongly, a gun can become an instrument of evil.
In our society, instruments of casual carnage are easily available, from bomb-making instructions on the internet to high-capacity, high-power guns that can be obtained illegally when not legally. More laws will not change that, at least not soon.
Neither will new laws change our society’s fascination with, and glorification of, mass violence. Books, movies and video games celebrate violence as the perceived solution to one’s problems and a measure of one’s machismo.
Even if we cannot make sense of the senseless, how do we stop the senseless?
Again, how do WE?