The instant Stephen Paddock mass murdered dozens and wounded hundreds in Las Vegas, the question was asked how could a guy get 10 guns into a major Las Vegas Hotel. There are several answers.
One is obvious. The others are much more painful to admit.
The obvious one is that Nevada is a state that you can’t get more “open carry” with on guns. One can walk around with concealed weapons, assault weapons, holstered guns, or let’s just say a mini-arsenal strapped around their hip. Or, in the case of Paddock, probably have them in bags or luggage; no questions asked.
Nevada takes such pride on its virtual no checks at all on guns, that the National Rifle Association praised the state for practically being the closest thing to the old Wild West when it comes to letting anyone pack a gun, anywhere, anytime.
Nevada is so gun happy that it achieved a near rarity when former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a moderate Democrat, hooked up with conservatives in Congress to beat back a modest package of gun control checks during his Senate tenure.
So, there was no chance that Paddock would undergo any luggage checks or any other check to prevent his gun toting at the hotel.
Even if there had been minimal checks in place, Paddock still would likely have flown under the radar. The NRA has terrorized congressional Republicans and a handful of Democrats for two decades from passing even the most modest of gun control measures.
It has done it through a well-oiled big money propaganda machine that spreads cash and favors around and bolsters that with threats to boot out of office any Republican or vulnerable Democrat that backs comprehensive gun control legislation.
In the process, it has played the Second Amendment card for all its worth and created an unyielding and entrenched mass public constituency of gun owners and sympathizers who will go to the barricades against any attempt to put meaningful controls on guns. No matter how many massacres there are, and there have been plenty the past decade, you can’t shake the NRA from its resolute defense of virtually unrestricted gun ownership.
Then there’s President Donald Trump. Though he made some faint soundings as a candidate about backing some gun restrictions, he changed his tune fast once in the Oval Office. He barely put his foot in the White House last January when he quickly signed a law dumping former President Barack Obama’s executive order to add mental health to background checks for gun purchases.
There was not one mumbling word in his canned address on the Las Vegas massacre about the horror of gun violence, let alone taking a fresh look at gun control restrictions.
That’s not all that was missing from his wooden words. There was not a single utterance from him of the words “domestic terrorism” to call the carnage exactly what it is.
Despite the years of carnage from these type of shootings, it’s still hard for many to come to grips with this bitter truth. That was painfully evident following the mass killing of 14 persons in San Bernardino a couple years back.
FBI officials were initially loath to call the killings domestic terrorism. When they did finally brand the killings as terrorism, they made it clear that the killings would be investigated as a terrorist act “inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.”
However, this still begged the question of calling the massacre exactly what it was, namely domestic terrorism. The refusal to consistently brand massacres of Americans by Americans as “domestic terrorism” strikes to the heart of how Americans are reflexively conditioned to regard terrorism.
It’s almost always related to the Middle East and the perpetrators are presumed to be Muslim. The FBI’s working definition of what constitutes terrorism is: “Terrorism is an act done or threatened to in order to try to influence a public body or the citizenry, so it’s more of a political act.”
That virtually ensures that Paddock’s slaughter won’t be tagged in official circles as a domestic terrorist act since his brothers in interviews repeatedly said that he expressed no political thoughts or had any known political affiliations.
There’s one final answer to why Paddock could so easily pack weapons at a Las Vegas hotel. He was a white, middle-aged male, who lived quietly in a small Nevada town. He did not fit the set-in-stone profile of a violent, crime prone type.
That type is variously Muslim, Middle Eastern or a young African-American, or Hispanic male. The proof is the parade of young and not so young white males who openly strap guns around their waists or pack assault weapons under their arms and have brazenly walked down city streets in dozens of states with absolutely no fear of being stopped, let alone arrested.
Paddock, like them, had no worries that he would be stopped before his hideous terror rampage. The even more hideous truth is that Las Vegas won’t change that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of “Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism” (Amazon Kindle). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.