by Megan Dreher & August Kissel
Asst. Editor & Editor
In the late hours of Oct. 1, 2017, America witnessed the deadliest mass shooting to date. At approximately 10:08 p.m., Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a crowd of concert goers in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort. In the estimated 10 minutes of gunfire, 58 people were killed and almost 500 were injured.
According to BBC World News, approximately 23 weapons were found within Paddock’s suite. He had also set up cameras inside and outside of the suite to monitor anyone approaching.
At 11:20 p.m., SWAT teams and police officers entered Paddock’s suite to find him dead. The cause of death was determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Paddock had a pilot and hunting license, he had no criminal record and also no known mental illnesses.
Many United States citizens reached out through social media to express their sympathy for victims and families.
Dr. Jonathan Keller, an assistant professor in the government department at Manhattan College, noted that this shooting differed from recent shootings the nation has seen largely in part due to its classification.
“First, let’s be clear about the fact that this event is being explained as a mass shooting, not as an act of domestic terrorism,” aid Dr. Keller. “In part because of the race of the shooter. Contrast the coverage of this event with the San Bernadino and Orlando shootings, for example. That said, however we classify it, it is the worst such shooting in American history.”
A device known as a “bump stock” was used by Paddock during his attack on Sunday night. “Bump stocks” are an attachment that can be added to semiautomatic weapons allowing them to shoot at the caliber of an automatic weapon.
“Curiously, even the NRA, whose playbook is usually to ‘go dark’ after a mass shooting, has said that, while they do not support a bump stocks ban, they are not categorically opposed to it,” said Dr. Keller. “While a ban on these attachments is needed, in my view this does not really get us anywhere near the heart of the problem. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 – which effectively codified the ban President George H.W. Bush imposed via executive order in 1989, banning broad categories of semiautomatic weapons, was allowed to sunset in 2004. Congress could have reauthorized it, and indeed, strengthened it.”
This shooting also raised more questions as to who can purchase and possess a firearm. Citizens are more hesitant to allow those with a diagnosed mental illness to possess a weapon capable of such destruction.
While there are background checks in place, many can slip through the cracks.
“Strengthening the mental health component of background checks is always a good idea, yes. But hitting this refrain — as if this is an appropriate/sufficient solution — is the standard playbook of congressional opponents of gun control after events like Las Vegas. The fact is that Stephen Paddock would not have been red flagged in any such check. So that is a necessary but nowhere near sufficient response here,” said Keller.
Many members of the Manhattan College community woke up to news alerts of the shooting on their phones early Monday morning. While saddened by the news, many students were not particularly surprised.
“I think I felt very numb and I think that’s because when you are used to stuff like this happening in the news all of the time it kinda can seem like ‘well, it’s just another news story’ and then you realize that you’ve become so desensitized to it,” said president of Just Peace, Samantha Wilson.
As mass shootings have become all too common on both national and international stages, students have found it increasingly difficult to sympathize with those affected.
“I think that reading individual accounts of what happened helped me to put it into perspective a lot more than just reading numbers. The individual stories were the hardest to hear,” said Carly Brownell, sophomore.
President Brennan O’Donnell echoed the feelings of the nation, as well as the Manhattan College community.
“Words fail in the wake of such evil and such suffering. The assault on our brothers and sisters in Las Vegas—and in Orlando, or Sandy Hook, or anywhere in the world—is an assault on all of us,” said O’Donnell. “As Lasallians, we are called to sympathy and prayer for the dead and injured; we are also called to the hard work of building a more peaceful society, one in which obscenities such as we witnessed—yet again—this week would be unthinkable.”
With the Manhattan College community pulling students coming from all corners of the world, there were students on campus who had connections with those affected by the massacre. As a result, members of Just Peace, with the help of Campus Ministry and Social Action (CMSA), felt the need to step forward and honor the victims.
On Thursday Oct. 5, students gathered in the Quad to attend a candlelight vigil. The students were lead in prayer by Conor Reidy, the campus minister, as well as select members of Just Peace. Each student received a candle and an orange flag, which represented gun violence awareness. 58 flags were handed out, each one representing a life lost. Students were then asked to write their thoughts and prayers and plant the flags in the quad to demonstrate Manhattan College’s support.
“I think doing stuff like this [the vigil] is a good way to help people to overcome that and realize that it’s not just another news story, it’s another life lost and it’s important to recognize them,” said Wilson.
Junior Mattie Thrall agreed.
“In the desensitized society that we live in, it’s nice to have a visual to represent the lives lost, and we felt a vigil would represent that best,” said Thrall.
Reidy credited the students for the urgency in responding to the mass shooting.
“I believe that responses of this nature need to come first and foremost from the student body. I think when tragedies, massacres, horrible instances like this occur, then the onus should be the backs and the wills of the students. If you look throughout history, it is students and student groups that have made huge differences in social movements throughout the course of the 20th century… I believe that it is the power of the student body, which is over 3000 individuals in a unified voice saying ‘Stop’,” said Reidy.
Reidy, who assisted in planning the vigil, enforced the importance of student involvement with political, social and environmental issues that our country has faced in recent years. As a Lasallian community, students are called to respond to those in need with compassion and support.
“As a catholic campus ministry we are called to read the signs of the times and stand in solidarity with those who are suffering wherever they are. Respond as appropriately as we can. Whether that be advocating for policy change in order to help alleviate the suffering of others. Or whether it be through prayer and encouraging others that our minds and hearts start with prayer in order to walk that road of solidarity that calls us to action,” Reidy said.
Dr. Keller reiterated the importance of student involvement, and encourages students to continue to care and reach out to their local public officials to make their concerns known.
“Find out if your congressman or senator supports gun control, and how hard (s)he is working to pass meaningful legislation. Find out if they are a major recipient of N.R.A. contributions. Let them know how you feel,” said Dr. Keller.
In Thursday night’s vigil, the prayer read, “We represent one voice, the voice of bitter weeping echoing throughout our cities and resounding in communities throughout the world.” Students and faculty of MC plan to contribute to that global voice in speaking out against gun violence and the mass murdering of innocent civilians.