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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 15, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: At least 59 dead after shooting in Las Vegas

At least 59 people have died and 527 have been injured as the result of a gunman opening fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 1. The shooting is considered one of the most deadly mass shootings in American history.

Concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival heard gunfire in the middle of country singer Jason Aldean’s performance. Some members of the crowd initially believed the shots to be fireworks, according to some witness accounts. The gunman shot at concertgoers from the 32nd floor in his room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across the street from the concert.

The gunman has been identified as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree. Paddock had no known political, religious or fiscal motivations for the shooting, nor did he have a history of mental illness, according to an interview with the gunman’s brother in the Washington Post.

Paddock’s motives are still unknown, but officials believe he acted alone. However, homicide detectives are trying to work with Paddock’s long-time girlfriend to piece together a motive. Investigators found 23 weapons in Paddock’s hotel room, 19 firearms in Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nevada, and several pounds of ammonium nitrate — a chemical used to make explosives — in Paddock’s car.

Paddock is suspected to have killed himself in his hotel room after the shooting before a SWAT team could break into his room. Officials have said that there is no known connection between Paddock and international terrorism, and he had no criminal record.

IS has claimed responsibility for the shooting and has said that Paddock converted to Islam months before the attack, but officials from the FBI have said that they could find no evidence to support this claim, according to CBS.

Aldean released a statement on his Instagram after the shooting, saying, “My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”

Democrats have called for stricter gun control in the U.S. following the events in Las Vegas, with Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut going so far as to accuse Congress of sitting “on its ass” and not doing anything about gun control. “The thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference,” Murphy told the Washington Post.

However, Sean Hannity, host of “The Sean Hannity Show” on FOX, said that politicians who are already concerned about gun control are “politicizing the tragedy in an absolutely despicable display.”

President Donald Trump said in a public address that the police response to the events wasin many ways, a miracle.” When reporters asked Trump about possible gun legislation, he deflected the question by saying “We’ll talk about that later.

There has been debate over whether or not the shooting in Las Vegas constitutes as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists released a statement that called attention to past tragedies that have higher death tolls. Their statement pointed to the East St. Louis Massacre in 1917, where nearly 100 black people were shot and killed.

There has also been debate over whether or not the shooting could be considered an act of domestic terrorism. David C. Rapoport, professor emeritus of political science at University of California and a specialist in terrorism, told a reporter from the New York Times that Paddock’s actions should not be considered terrorism because he had no clear ideological motive. But John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State who studies terrorism, told the Times that Paddock’s actions undoubtedly spread terror.

Meaghan McElroy can be reached at mmcelroy@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meaghan_mcelroy