WASHINGTON: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” has long been the sly tourism promotion slogan for Las Vegas, whose fortunes built on gambling and gamboling gave it the moniker Sin City. To that, add gun violence.
- The gunman rained down rapid fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel.
- More than 500 people were taken to area hospitals with injuries.
In what is being described as the Shooting in Las Vegas+ , a lone gunman massacred at least 58 people, shooting from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino before he killed himself even as a SWAT team stormed in. More than 500 people enjoying the country music show below were injured in a five-minute long stream of firing during which he discharged hundreds of rounds from one or more automatic weapons he had stocked in the hotel room he had checked into.
The gunman was later identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, a state that has a middling ranking in the country with regards to gun ownership laws. Police found in excess of 10 rifles in the room but said he had no significant criminal record. No motive had been established at the time of writing. His family members said they were shocked.
The attack was the deadliest shooting in the United States since 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando+ , Florida in June 2016. The US media noted that each episode of gun violence in America is now getting deadlier than the previous one as the pro-gun lobby, which backed President Trump even as he warmed up to it, continues to prevail in the debate over gun control.
The carnage began shortly after 10pm local time when thousands of tourists and fans of country music were enjoying a performance by singer Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino near the famous Las Vegas “Strip.” Videos showed the rat-a-tat-a-tat of gunfire erupting during a song, but it appears it was initially mistaken for fireworks, and the song continued.
As realization dawned that it was gunfire and people were flailing and falling to bullets, the singer bolted from the stage and voices shouted ”get down! get down!” For many, it was too late.
President Trump later tweeted his ”warmest condolences+ and sympathies to the victims and families” even as a furious debate erupted yet again about the country’s lax gun laws which allow people to own powerful automatic weapons that even law enforcement in many countries are not allowed to possess.
“Automatic weapons are legal but lawn darts are not for safety reasons,” raged one anti-gun activist on social media, even as Second Amendment advocates recited family arguments for the right to bear arms
There will be more agonizing over Second Amendment and gun control before matters recede, just like they do with fires and stampedes and railway accidents in India.
This, after all, is a country that barely acted beyond words when school children were massacred in the Sandy Hook incident.
Las Vegas though is no ordinary town. It is one of the most visited cities in the world, clocking an incredible 42 million visitors in 2016 and soaking in more than $ 10 billion in gambling revenues alone. Much of this gambling and gamboling takes place on the “Strip,” a 7 km long road that has a dense concentration of hotels, casinos, and convention centers.
The city holds more than 20,000 conventions every year and had an astonishing 167,000 hotel rooms – more than New York, Orlando, or Chicago, and in fact, the most in any city in the world.
The city is also the site of many movies, from the storied Meet Me In Las Vegas and Ocean’s Eleven to Bond’s Diamonds Are Forever to Jason Bourne to the cult hit franchise The Hangover.
On Monday morning though Las Vegas was nursing the kind of hangover it had never experienced before.