Was it terrorism? No. The shooter was white. The mass shooting that took the lives of at least 59 people and injured hundreds at an Oct. 1 country music concert in Las Vegas revealed much about American racial tensions.
Surrounded by more than 20 firearms on the 32nd floor of a hotel, Stephen Paddock rained bullets onto thousands of innocent concertgoers.
Those are details we know now. But when the first snippets of information came out of Sin City, the picture wasn’t so clear.
We didn’t know the conclusions we should draw until we knew the shooter’s skin color. His name alone was almost enough to eliminate a set of assumptions about religion and motive.
It may seem ironic, but millions of people breathed a sigh of relief when that piece was added to the tragic puzzle. A country music concert is one of the whitest gatherings our multi-hued nation can assemble.
Imagine how the nation would have recoiled had the shooter been black. Racial tensions are hitting peaks not seen since the Civil Rights Era. Las Vegas might have been the spark to light the national powder keg, had Paddock been a minority.
Imagine how the nation would have recoiled had the shooter been Muslim. When a dark-skinned person lashes out in violence, the act is categorized as terrorism or thug behavior. A white shooter is simply a lone wolf with a gun or two. Our hands go in the air, and declarations are made that nothing can be done.
The proof is on your feet at the airport. A few months after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, a man claiming terrorist ties tried unsuccessfully to detonate shoes packed with explosives on a flight. He’s serving three life sentences, and we’ve been taking our shoes off for the better part of two decades.
Since that day, there have been 25 shootings in the U.S. claiming five or more fatalities, yet nothing has changed. President Trump didn’t get elected by promising to build a wall to keep the guns out. (Returning to hypothetical outcomes, imagine the political support for a border wall had the shooter been an undocumented person from Latin America. Or for a travel ban had he come from the Middle East.)
We should be terrorized by gun violence in the U.S. The solution of arming Americans to the point that there are more guns than people simply isn’t working.