On Monday morning, Oct. 2, former President Barack Obama responded to the shooting in Las Vegas with a tweet. The former president spoke up following a shooting at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip during a country music festival on Sunday night, Oct. 1. More than 50 people died and at least 200 were injured, making this the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. (Update: At least 58 people were killed and over 515 were injured in the shooting, according to Las Vegas Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo. The shooter has also been confirmed dead and is not believed to have a connection to any terrorist group.)
Obama took to Twitter to share a message with the country from himself and Michelle Obama. He wrote,
Michelle & I are praying for the victims in Las Vegas. Our thoughts are with their families & everyone enduring another senseless tragedy.
The former president's use of the phrase "another senseless tragedy" speaks to a theme of his presidency. Obama had to make at least 17 speeches to the nation following mass shootings. He continually pushed Congress for stricter gun control laws, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, which left 20 children and six adults dead. In a speech from the White House Briefing Room shortly after that shooting, Obama said,
As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
Despite Obama's many pleas for stricter gun control laws so as to lessen the number and impact of mass shootings, Congress, led by Republicans, did not pass anything. So it's understandable that now, in the aftermath of a horrifically deadly mass shooting, Obama would see it as "another senseless tragedy."
This latest shooting occurred outside of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night, just after 10 p.m. It happened during the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music festival that took place outside, as singer Jason Aldean was performing. A shooter opened fire on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay. A SWAT team immediately went to the hotel, putting it on lockdown. The shooter was fatally shot and weapons were found in his room. He was identified as a Nevada local; the shooting is not believed to be connected to international terrorism.
"We have no idea what his belief system was," Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said. "We've located numerous firearms within the room that he occupied."
This narrative of a lone-wolf shooter not connected to terrorism runs counter to President Donald Trump's publicly stated ethos on violence in the United States. While he has been more than comfortable speaking in tough language about shootings connected to terrorism, Trump has been more silent when it comes to the more common instances of gun violence not connected to terrorism.
As a presidential candidate, Trump spoke in favor of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and holding onto gun rights. As president, Trump revoked an Obama-era rule that made it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun in February. During an April speech to the NRA, he said the "eight-year assault" on gun rights came to a "crashing end" with his election.
This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.