Machine gun massacre kills 59 in Las Vegas

72 minutes of terror: It was the worst mass shooting in recent US history. © Getty

Will yesterday’s horror bring Americans together or deepen divisions? As well as the dead, 527 were injured during the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A country music festival on a warm night on the Las Vegas strip. The picture of all-American fun.

But the joyful crowd did not know the evil that lay looming above them on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. At 22:08, a 64-year-old man named Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd. One eyewitness said he fired “probably 100 shots at a time”. “It would sound like it was reloading and then it would go again.”

“People just kept dropping and dropping,” said another festival-goer.

As The Day goes to press, 59 people have been confirmed dead, with 527 injured, some in the stampede to flee the scene.

Police were able to pinpoint Paddock’s position relatively quickly since the gunfire triggered the smoke alarms in the hotel.

They used explosives to blow open the door to his room, but by then it was too late — Paddock had shot himself dead. Inside the room they found an “arsenal” of 20 rifles.

Attention is now turning to Stephen Paddock himself: his background, his motive and how he was able to acquire such weaponry.

Paddock kept his true nature well hidden. His brother said the family was “dumbfounded”. “He has no police record. He probably doesn’t even have parking tickets. He eats burritos and goes into Vegas to gamble. He was not an avid gun guy.”

NBC News reported that he had stayed in the hotel since September 28th and had gambled “tens of thousands of dollars” in recent weeks.

But still no ideological motive has been found. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, but similar claims have been bogus in the past, and investigators have found no link to international terrorism.

Whatever his twisted reasoning, Paddock was clearly, as President Trump said, “pure evil”.

So at a time when the USA is going through a psychodrama of its own, with its divisions deepening and its global influence on the wane, along comes the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s recent history. Could this bring the country together, or will it further shake American certainty and confidence?

Stripped down

After such a tragedy, let us hope that people will forget their disagreements for a while. Those killed were Democrat and Republican, black and white, tourist and American citizen. The motive does not seem to be political. This can be a chance for the nation to step back, look at itself honestly, and unify.

But others are more pessimistic. Already the great gun control debate is raging around America, dividing fierce partisans on both sides. The politicisation of such tragedies leads to even more irrational thinking: conspiracy theories quickly started spreading around the internet, fuelled by people with a point to prove. America is in crisis, and this cannot help.

You Decide

  1. Will this mass shooting unite America or further divide it?
  2. Is it appropriate to discuss political policies in the light of a tragedy like this?

Activities

  1. Design a timeline of mass shootings in recent US history, illustrating the reactions to each event.
  2. Imagine you are an editor of an American newspaper. Write an editorial about the event, recognising both the weight of the tragedy and its political elements.

Some People Say...

“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”

Donald Trump

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
This is the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, with at least 59 confirmed dead. We know that the weapon used was a fully automatic rifle, which has been banned in the USA since the 1980s. We know that the perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, was a 64 year-old who lived in a retirement community in the town of Mesquite, 80 miles north-east of Las Vegas.
What do we not know?
The killer’s motives. His family did not detect any signs of depression or radicalisation, and he was not on the radar of the security services. We do not know how he acquired his arsenal of weapons, or how long in advance he planned the attack. These details are likely to emerge in the coming days.

Word Watch

Las Vegas
Nevada’s largest city is an internationally renowned resort city, most famous for its gambling. It is nicknamed “Sin City” and bills itself as “The Entertainment Capital of the World“.
59 people have been confirmed dead
That number is likely to rise in the coming days. Among the dead was an off-duty police officer.
Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility
In June, a gambling addict shot up and torched a casino in Manila, Philippines. IS claimed responsibility, with a dubious follow-up alleging that the perpetrator, Jessie Javier Carlos, 42, converted to Islam some months before, without telling anyone. These claims were proved to be lies.
President Trump
In response to the attack, the president tweeted: “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!“
Deadliest mass shooting
Until Sunday, the attack in June 2016 on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando by an IS terrorist had been the deadliest; 49 people died.

Subjects

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