Dear President Trump,
The Las Vegas massacre is predictably slipping down the pages of the NYT and the WP. There are still bits of coverage and some editorials but the big splash seems to be over and we’ve moved on to your ham-fisted handling of the NAFTA negotiations and the Iran nuclear deal. Par for the course we’ve set together as a country.
I wonder how Paddock would feel about this if he were still able to feel anything? I know that’s an odd place to go since he is the clear villain in this situation and no one should care what he would think or feel, but I’ve been wondering from the beginning whether there might be something more to what he did than one would think based on our understanding of usual mass shootings. Here was a wealthy man with no legal history and no documented mental illness. He had a devoted girlfriend whom he apparently sent away and financially took care of pending his demise. He purchased all the weapons legally, including the bump stock device. He didn’t have any (as yet detected) ties to extremist groups and critically, he apparently did not leave any information about a motive. Plus, he chose to attack people at a country music festival. This is all very weird and doesn’t add up to your usual hate-ridden, paranoid man hell-bent on exacting a toll on people or institutions he despises. I realize this is going to sound quite crazy and could have me branded a traitor to the cause, but what if Paddock was trying to make it so we cannot ignore the issue of gun control? There is likely absolutely no way to prove this hypothesis unless something he wrote or said along these lines comes to light and for lots of reasons I doubt this would ever happen even if he did write or say something like this. I don’t even have much confidence in the idea myself and there are several equally plausible and far more acceptable hypotheses one could consider, starting with the grave under-detection of mental illness and the low likelihood of affluent white men being held legally accountable for wrong doing, so he could have been a paranoid sadist who just wanted to inflict as much damage as he could. But the lack of a stated motive is tough to square as is the fact of a devoted girlfriend who is a woman of color and that he attacked country music fans. It just doesn’t add up to an easy, pat answer. And gosh do we want easy, pat answers in situations like this.
(I am allowing myself the luxury of two submissions on this topic. ts)
Aside from the things we know about Paddock I listed previously, we know his neighbors said he was aloof and gruff, which puts some marks in the sick “lone wolf” column. He also checked out several other sites and concert venues and planned the most massive attack in US history meticulously, all of which could also go in the sick “lone wolf” column. The other thing that stands out is that his brother said Paddock was extremely smart and other high stakes gamblers said he was able to calculate odds on the poker machines incredibly quickly and accurately. Again, this could go in the sick “lone wolf” column. It’s this last piece though, his intelligence, which for me has added weight to the possibility he did what he did to force a national conversation on gun control. He knew he was someone who would never, ever have a background check come up with a flag. He must have known that country music people are among the most ardent second amendment supporters. He must have known that all the guns people were probably carrying on the concert grounds would have been absolutely useless against the type of attack he mounted. He almost certainly knew politicians, the NRA, and gun owners salivate over motives so they can pretend the good/evil lines are meaningful in the gun control debate.
I don’t think there is an afterlife but if there is and my hypothesis has merit, I bet Stephen Paddock is very pissed off. Whether he would be regretting his actions in taking 58 (+ himself) lives and injuring hundreds, I have no idea. He may have been a cool enough character to chalk it up to having gone all in on a very high stakes bet but having lost, which is what happens almost all the time in those situations.
Regardless of whether his motive was to force a national reckoning with the NRA and the limits of the second amendment, for all the reasons listed above and a whole bunch more, this is needed. Desperately. We cannot let ourselves be held hostage by bought politicians, including you, who blather on about upholding the Constitution while turning a blind eye to the public health crisis of gun violence.
May we insist on real safety.
May we insist on everyone’s right to the pursuit of happiness (which means they have to be alive).
May we insist on real public health legislation.
May we be courageous enough to address the paranoid fear underlying our gun culture that is stoked by racist profit mongers.