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Awakening to the News of the Most Deadly Shooting in U.S. History

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Awakening to the News of the Most Deadly Shooting in U.S. History

An awful way to start the week:

At least 50 people are dead and more than 200 wounded after a gunman opened fire on a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in the most deadly shooting in U.S. history.

Police said the suspect, identified as 64-year-old local resident Stephen Paddock, was located on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino when he took aim at the nearby Route 91 Harvest Festival.

Local television news reports showed crowds of people in Las Vegas ducking for cover as the sound of rapid gunshots rang out, while dozens of patrol vehicles descended on the Strip.

Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said the suspect was shot dead by officers and that authorities were confident there was no longer a threat.

He said police found numerous firearms in the room he occupied and that officers were also at his residence.

The death toll may surpass the current total; the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, committed by jihadist Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and injured 58 more. The death toll from Virginia Tech was 32; Sandy Hook, 27.

Notice this detail: “The suspect was known to police in Mesquite and had a criminal history, the sources said. Lombardo said authorities believe they had found a traveling companion of the deceased gunman they were seeking, who Lombardo identified as Marilou Danley, 62. Law enforcement sources tell Milton that Danley was Paddock’s wife.”

One can’t help but wonder if she is related to this particular unnerving detail from a survivor’s account:

A woman who was at the concert told a local news station that a “lady pushed her way forward in the concert venue. And she started messing with another lady and told us that we are all going to die tonight. … It was about 45 minutes [before] the shots were actually fired. But then she was escorted out by security.” But police have not confirmed if they believe that was related to the shooting.

Is it possible this was a case of a woman knowing the man in her life was about to do something terrible and rash, but she didn’t have the mental wherewithal to stop him or call the police, so she ran into the crowd and tried to warn people?

One of the most enraging aspects of mass shootings in recent years is the now almost predictable reports of individuals close to the shooter feeling threatened and  warning authorities, only to see either insufficient response or no response at all. Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora – in each case, individuals went to school administrators or campus police, only to have their warnings fall on deaf ears.

Two off-duty police officers attending the concert were killed, according to Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo. The Las Vegas Police Department reported that two on-duty officers were injured during the shooting. “One is in stable condition after surgery and the other sustained minor injuries.”

We’re going to hear a lot of questions in the coming days about “why did he do it?” Does it matter? Aren’t all of these shooters more or less the same? In their minds, they’ve been wronged by the world; the world owed them something and it refused to give it to them. The Isla Vista shooter believed he deserved pretty women; the Alexandria shooter who tried to kill GOP Congressmen believed he deserved a world where his party was in charge. The Columbine killers believed they deserved a world where they would never feel ostracized.

After mass shootings, I often find myself referring back to the observations of Willard Gaylin, one of the world’s preeminent psychology professors. Gaylin writes about the dangers of “grievance collecting” in his book Hatred: The Psychological Descent into Violence:

Grievance collecting is a step on the journey to a full-blown paranoid psychosis. A grievance collector will move from the passive assumption of deprivation and low expectancy common to most paranoid personalities to a more aggressive mode. He will not endure passively his deprived state; he will occupy himself with accumulating evidence of his misfortunes and locating the sources. Grievance collectors are distrustful and provocative, convinced that they are always taken advantage of and given less than their fair share. . . .

Underlying this philosophy is an undeviating comparative and competitive view of life. Everything is part of a zero-sum game. Deprivation can be felt in another person’s abundance of good fortune.

In this light, a worldview of gratitude, counting one’s blessings, and always keeping in mind that no matter how bad our troubles, there’s someone else out there who’s dealing with worse ones, isn’t just nicer, more optimistic or more Christian. It’s a tool for warding off self-absorption, bitterness and madness. A relentless focus on how others have failed you and how the world at large doesn’t live up to your standards could just turn you into a monster.


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