He wasn’t, apparently, a sociopath. He did not, to anyone who knew him, show any signs of mental illness, was not a fringe radical or a “nutjob.”
All initial indications are that Stephen Paddock, who just massacred as many as 59 people and seriously injured hundreds more, had no record of mental health problems, nothing to cause him to come unhinged or to “snap.” He apparently wasn’t attacking a particular group, or race, or religion. According to his brother, he had no major affiliations at all, be they political, religious or otherwise.
The story might change and there are many unanswered questions, but right now it appears Paddock was just an older, retired, seemingly normal white guy who lived a quiet life in Nevada, playing slots, watching concerts, “hanging out.” He had no criminal record.
In other words, he was yet another “average” white American male who had easy access to all the powerful guns he wanted, pre-planning a massive stash of military-grade death machines found in his Mandalay Bay hotel room, all easily obtained by just about anyone who wants them, with minimal background checks and increasingly lax, idiotic ownership laws (and Nevada has some of the most lax in the nation) – including ownership by the mentally ill, because the NRA is a morbid cult of terrified white males, and Trump is anything if not obeisant to his hateful base.
You disagree? You think only a true sociopath could do something like this? That Paddock must have been crazy, mentally unstable, a nut, regardless of any medical diagnosis? You think no “normal” person could ever do something like this?
You are wrong. The mental illness argument is convenient lie, a myth foisted by the NRA and beloved by hardcore gun nuts everywhere.
Fact is, “normal” people commit vicious atrocities every single day, to the tune of tens of thousands of gun attacks in America every year: murders, suicides, spousal killing, mass shootings, revenge attacks, dead wives and girlfriend and children, church-goers and UPS workers and nightclub patrons. There has been, on average, a mass shooting nearly every day in America since the Sandy Hook massacre in December of 2012, totaling nearly 1,400, and counting. And the vast majority of such shootings are at the hand of – you guessed it – white American males. We must repeat it every single time: No other industrialized nation has this problem, and surely they have as many “sociopaths,” per capita, as America.
Put another way: Even if it turns out Paddock suffered from depression or some strain of mental illness, mass shootings and gun violence in America are not, by and large, mental health issues.
Translation: It’s the guns. It’s the guns. It’s the guns. It’s the NRA and their vicious hate campaigns, their lies about “protecting your family” and “shooting for fun” and “if only more people had guns this would never happen,” which is not only exactly the inverse of true, it’s one of the most sinister, devastating lies ever forced down the throat of a nation. It’s their nasty appeal to white males, training them to fear, well, everything and anything: the government, blacks, terrorists, women, Obama, liberals, free speech, human rights.
Here’s the obvious, albeit tragic prediction: Nothing will change. Also, this will happen again. Officially, the Vegas massacre is now the worst of its kind in recent American history, the most horrific mass shooting since, well, the last one, gun violence ever remaining the ugliest and most shameful aspect of American life. And the gun lobby, to put it bluntly, could not be happier.
Despite it all, despite all the calls for new gun control laws and the wails of the mourning families, nothing will change. Not because it can’t, not because guns are too entrenched (they’re not; nothing is), but because no one on Congress has the nerve, or the moral compass, to make real change happen. As famously tweeted once before, the gun control debate in America ended after Sandy Hook. Once Americans deemed it OK to massacre children, it was over.
This is doubly true today, under the violence-loving Trump regime and a GOP that takes in millions of dollars in donations/handouts from the NRA ($32 million in campaign donations to Trump/Pence in 2016 alone – a record – along with nearly another million spread among dozens of GOP congressmen). We also have a thuggish ogre of a president, one who stops just short of endorsing outright violence against those who oppose, or even just disagree, with him – women, blacks, immigrants, the poor, smart people, liberals, scientists, journalists, humanity itself.
Shall we pause for a moment to imagine if Paddock had been black, or Latino, or Muslim? The racist screams from the Right? How Trump would be calling for everyone to buy even more guns, ban all immigrants forever, give police more power and less oversight, allow open carry in kindergarten? The fact Paddock was an average white male – very much the typical profile for a shooter in America, by the way – points to the darker, ongoing truth, one that speaks to white privilege, the lie of the “lone wolf” shooter, and the easy scapegoat of calling such acts “evil,” when brutal shootings are, in fact, everyday occurrences in America.
Let us be as clear as possible: Guns and gun culture remain the most shameful, destructive aspects of America, and the NRA is America’s truest terrorist organization, akin to a death cult, one fueled by – and openly promoting – only the most fearful aspects of the human psyche. It’s a calculated message, it’s intentional, and it’s destroying us from within.
In other words: There is no light here. There is no hope, love, kindness or inclusiveness anywhere in the rabid push for more guns in America. Guns offer nothing of true value or moral good to a society. They bring only pain and rage. They bring only death.
Guns have, after all, but a single destiny. They are designed, manufactured and sold for one perfectly bleak, ruinous purpose: the annihilation of life.
As I wrote in a previous, post mass-shooting column:
Guns are unparalleled, really; they are small masterpieces of precision engineering, one of humanity’s most deliberate, perfectly designed tools. There is simply no denying a gun’s intention, no possible misunderstanding of its reason for existing.
Unlike cars, knives, drugs, alcohol or any other freely available, potentially deadly items which can (and do) kill lots of people, guns are the only commercially available instrument in the world that we designed specifically for the purpose of the eradication of life. A gun’s nature is, as they say in the tech world, baked in to the hardware. It understands nothing else.
Which is to say: Guns are death made physical, palpable in the hand. They are our basest, least sacred energies – hate, fear, paranoia – compressed into metal and explosives. No one holds or fires a gun without some fundamental understanding of this fact – that he could, if he so desired, kill anything he wanted, right now, in an instant – and that’s essentially all you’re supposed do with it.
The equation, then, is simple enough: the more guns we numbly pump into the culture – more than 300 million, at latest estimate, far more than any other developed nation on Earth, by many orders of magnitude – the more that grim destiny will continue to be fulfilled.