op-ed

Las Vegas Massacre Could Have Been Much Worse

On October 1, Stephen Paddock turned his guns on a country music concert in Las Vegas, killing 59 people, including himself, and wounding more than 500 in the worst mass shooting in modern American history. As an event that marks an anniversary on November 5 shows, the horror could have been much worse.

Stephen Paddock struck without warning and none of his friends or relatives knew he was planning a mass attack. Paddock had no criminal record and law enforcement was also without a clue. Contrast that with the shooter at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009.

U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan openly identified himself as a “Soldier of Allah,” but this was not his only warning sign. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was communicating with jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki on the subject of killing Americans. Al-Awlaki, who tutored three of the 9/11 hijackers, told him it was okay.

American authorities, including the FBI, had Hasan’s emails but failed to warn anyone and did nothing to prevent the soldier of Allah’s attack. Hasan gunned down 12 unarmed soldiers and a civilian contractor, more than twice as many casualties as the first attack on the World Trade Center.

Hasan’s victims included Pvt. Francheska Velez, who was three months pregnant. He chased down the wounded and shot them in the back. He wounded more than 30 people before a bullet from civilian police officer Kim Munley stopped the onslaught.

Imagine if Stephen Paddock had flashed business cards bearing “Shooter in Waiting,” or “Have Gun, Will Travel,” but nobody took it as a warning. Imagine if Paddock had been communicating with a criminal gang, mob hit men or terrorists about plans to open fire on thousands of innocent people.

Imagine if the police had those communications in hand, then did nothing whatsoever to stop Paddock’s attack and nothing to warn the concert-goers. And imagine the horror and outrage if all that became known. Incredibly enough, the Fort Hood attack surpassed such negligence and complicity.

Nidal Hasan killed with privately purchased handguns, not a military-issue weapon, but President Obama did not even call the attack gun violence. For the president, it was “workplace violence,” as though the mass murderer had been some angry letter carrier. It was an absurdity for the ages but on the other hand it was loathsome.

President Trump called the Las Vegas attack “pure evil.” If the president had downplayed it as a case of “recreational violence” or even “criminal violence,” that would have added to the horror and outrage.

The “workplace violence” designation hindered the victims from getting the medical treatment they needed. The Obama White House also declined the request of Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, an African American, to meet with the president and explain how the government mistreated victims of the Fort Hood attack.

Imagine if President Trump took action to prevent the Las Vegas wounded from getting the treatment they needed. Imagine the response if Trump refused to meet with the wounded victims. That would have magnified the horror of Paddock’s murder spree.

As Fort Hood shows, the gravity of a massacre is not always a matter of numbers. As much as possible under the rule of law, government is supposed to protect the public from mass murderers, not ignore and enable them. President Trump should track down those who gave Nidal Hasan a free pass and tell them “you’re fired.”

Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is the author of Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation and Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield.


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