Thoughts on Las Vegas

Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the last few days, you’ve heard about the horrific events at a concert on the Vegas Strip. In short, a lunatic with an arsenal of automatic weapons opened fire on revelers at a Jason Aldean concert. The end result (as of the time of this article) is 58 confirmed fatalities and 527 wounded. This event is officially the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Before anything else is said, let me first express my condolences to those who suffered the loss of a friend or family member in this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the wounded as they recover as well as the victims and those they left behind. Nothing excuses the actions taken by this madman, and I am in no way implying that the victims of this tragedy are to blame for their experience.

This particular MCE takes on a personal tone for me. Just last month (September 2017), my wife and younger daughter attended Aldean’s concert in Raleigh, NC. It was a joint birthday present for the two of them. My 14-year-old was so excited about the trip that she could hardly breathe. Meanwhile, I was in deep conversations with my wife about concert security. The venue was an outdoor amphitheater, thus increasing the potential for bad ju-ju to go down.

My wife admits that she originally believed that the likelihood for violence was low. After all, who would ever attack a country music concert in the great ol’ US of A? The answer to that question is all too evident now.

Having watched numerous recordings of the events in Las Vegas, it is apparent that this particular attack brought an entirely new set of circumstances to the a normally predictable MCE. The shooter (whose name will not be mentioned here for the fact that he deserves no mention or notoriety) occupied a 32nd-floor room and used that vantage point as a platform for his attack.

The typical ‘active shooter response’ mantras (“Run, Hide, Fight”, “Avoid, Deny, Defend”, ALICE [Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate]) were rendered moot. How does one run from someone whose vantage point presents a field of vision that spans literally for miles? Where does one hide when the location of the shooter puts him above virtually every type of concealment or cover? How can one engage a shooter who is 400 meters away and 32 stories up? All of the carefully crafted messages about ‘what to do in an active shooter situation’ became suddenly and poignantly useless.

Thus, the deadliest mass shooting in modern history.

Having no other recourse, people did what people naturally do. They froze. They waited. And many of them died. Only after 100 rounds or so had been fired at them did they realize the necessity to run, but even then they had no idea which direction to run because the location of the shooter was undetermined.

Let’s be clear here. I am not blaming the victims. Their situation was impossible and their confusion entirely justified. Under the circumstances, I’d wager that most people would do what they did (except for this guy, whose reaction is probably the most indicative of my attitude towards this shooter).

So let’s take a look at this event from a couple of different angles – the political and the practical – and make some assessments based on what we see.

The Political

In the hours following the shooting, police went on record saying that there was no way they could have foreseen or prevented this attack. The shooter wasn’t on anyone’s radar. He had a spotless criminal record. He wasn’t a religious fanatic nor was he a political activist. There were no lingering financial issues; in fact, this shooter was substantially well off. He wasn’t the target of any investigations or work-related scandals. He was in a long-term dating relationship; his girlfriend allegedly sent cookies to his mother.

This shooter was exceptionally normal, which makes his rampage that much more perplexing.

As expected, the anti-gun narrative started within hours of the shootings – before the bodies had even been transported to the morgue, in fact. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who declared that we didn’t need to wax political about this event, immediately went political by railing against the NRA. Bernie Sanders and a host of other Democrats also decided that it was time to renew their call for gun control in the wake of Las Vegas.

Of course, the fact that gun control is a failed venture (as demonstrated in the failures of Detroit, Chicago, and California as gun control Utopias) is completely lost on anti-gun proponents. Despite the most well-crafted narratives of the anti-gun left, there is nothing that could have been done to stop the Vegas shooter. His weapons and ammunition were legally purchased. His movements furtive. His plan undisclosed until he pulled the trigger for the first time.

Any calls for ‘stronger common sense gun laws’ are just background noise to the truth of the matter.

The Practical

What lessons can be learned from the Vegas event? Several:

  • Have a plan. I’m not saying that everyone at the concert failed in this regard, but enough people did to cause a casualty count that sets a new record for carnage. Knowing how to get to the nearest exit is paramount. It also pays to know where cover or concealment can be found.
  • Be willing to break the rules. According to what I saw in video from the Vegas shooting, when people realized the truth of the matter – that bullets were flying – they turned and ran… across wide swaths of open ground. The Vegas strip is a long, narrow venue. The better option it to run toward the edges of the venue, not the rear. Even better would be to run toward the stage. With all of the rigging, lights, and curtains, there is a lot of interference for bullets to manage. There is also a stage under which you may be able to hide. Aldean headed backstage when the shooting started. Under the circumstances, I would suggest doing the same.
  • Know what gunfire sounds like. Watch this video. Watch this one for a slower rate of fire. Watch them repeatedly. Doing so will ingrain the sound of gunfire in your ears. When you hear that sound, assume first it is gunfire. Refuse to just stand there while trying to assess (and justify) the sound. People chalked up the sound to fireworks (though none were visible) or monitor feedback. I watched a video in which a young lady with her friend stood in the line of fire for almost two minutes after a nearby concertgoer told her that the sound was feedback.
  • When there’s gunfire, particularly from an unknown location, the sooner you can move the better. Immobile people are called targets. Moving people are still targets, but they are a helluva lot harder to hit.
  • Know your ballistics. Bullets that hit the ground can and will ricochet (against hard surfaces). The line of deflection does not equal the angle of entry. Bullets deform and break apart when they strike hard surfaces, which will cause a low exit trajectory (closer to the ground) Lying prone can easily result in additional injury.

The best safety option is to prepare your mind before you attend the event. Once the ground work for safety is in place, the only responsibility is to enjoy the show. Plan for the worst while expecting the best.

Be safe.

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