I don't know what to say. I am somewhat at a loss. As of right now, 59 individuals in Las Vegas have been killed as a result of a terrorist attack and over 500 have been injured. Calling the shooter anything less than a terrorist would be inaccurate, as a terrorist is defined by Nevada state law as, "The intent to cause great bodily harm or death on a mass scale, regardless of whether it is done in furtherance of a particular cause."
The feelings I am experiencing are sadly familiar - grief for innocent lives lost, anger at our country's gun laws, and overwhelmed with heartbreak for all the victims' families and loved ones.
I felt this way just last year, after the deadly shooting in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub. That time 49 lives were lost, all at a gay nightclub, on Latino night. That time, the incident felt like a horrific attack on my community. As an advocate for the LGBTQ+ and a Latina, I knew that if I lived in Orlando I would have definitely been there. The next time I went out to a club with friends, I found myself checking for exit locations and being extra attentive to any loud noises.
This time, it just feels almost the same. Though I don't feel personally connected to the community or crowd attacked, I know that it could have been any crowd in any city. I don't even know where to begin checking for exits this time around. The violence is inescapable.
The Gun Violence Archive reports that this was the 273rd shooting of 2017 and the most deadly in American history. Gun violence and mass shootings are starting to feel like an American tradition, in that they no longer shock us and continue to occur without any major changes in gun laws. I don't even know how many mass shootings I have seen in my lifetime. Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, Aurora, Orlando, and now, Las Vegas. This is only to mention some of the past sprees, as I know there have been so many more lives lost at the hands of guns than just these incidents. These high profile events are the ones at the forefront of my memories, as the near-daily shootings don't get as much media attention. We're numb.
The headlines all read the same, there is outrage and sadness across the nation. Each time, we as a society offer up our collective 'thoughts and prayers' for about a week; and then we wait until the next terrifying gun-related incident to happen. No doubt that it will. We go through all the same motions, slowly piecing our broken hearts back together, and then starting all over again, hoping that this time we don't see a familiar name flash across a screen.
I think we can all agree on one thing: this senseless violent act needs to stop. Thoughts and prayers are no longer enough to offer up. They do not bring back the dead, they do not actively work against our flawed system. It feels as though this country does not value the lives of its citizens as much as it values "the right to bear arms," the flag, or the national anthem. Where there was uproar at peaceful protests, all politicians can seem to muster up are "warmest condolences" and more "thoughts and prayers." The U.S. is in dire need of gun reform, and we need to be loud about it. Some have said that this is not the time to discuss gun control or politicize the issue, as we are all in a time grieving. I have to ask - if these numbers don't make you want to talk about gun laws, how high does the number of lives lost have to get? With over a decade of mass shootings, the time to talk is NOW before things get worse.
As timing would have it, there are two new pro-gun bills that are coming up before Congress very soon. The SHARE Act makes silencers easier for gun owners to access. Heads up: making them easier to access, will also make it harder for us to distinguish where the gunshot sounds are coming from. The other bill to be brought to Congress is HR 38, better known as Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. This bill, if passed, would allow those who legally carry their concealed guns in their home state to travel across state lines with them legally. Call your representatives, talk to people, be loud about where you stand. This is 2017, you have no excuses to not be informed anymore. The resources are out there, but to start, try 5 calls.
In addition to keeping your eye on the gun laws, you can donate to The Las Vegas Victims' Fund, which was set up by Los Angeles Local Law Enforcement. If you're local, Las Vegas is also in need of blood for those who are badly injured, as well as food, water, blankets, and chairs. Do what you can and let's all come together to help those directly affected by this attack.
Don't forget to take care of yourself during this time as well. Even those who are not directly affected can be impacted by this horrific incident. Take a social media break, practice self-care, and participate in the small quick positive actions that do not overwhelm you but can still make a difference. No one knows what you need better than yourself, listen to your body and emotions.
I doubt this will be the last time we see an act of gun violence of this size, and I doubt I will be the last one to cry. The chance of me dying in a mass shooting becomes more and more likely with each passing day and it is probably the same for the rest of the citizens of the U.S. What is it going to take for a change?
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