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THOMPSON: “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”

October 09, 2017 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


“What Happens Here, Stays Here.” Las Vegas came up with this slogan 14 years ago…an allusion to its anything-goes reputation implicit as the world’s most famous gambling and partying destination. No one back in Kelowna or Cleveland or Kansas City has to know exactly what you did in Vegas.

Sadly, for the 59 people massacred last week at a country music festival in the shadow of the Mandalay Hotel in Vegas - and the 527 who were wounded and injured by an evil 64-year-old man with 23 weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition - what happened in Vegas doesn’t stay there.

The horror they experienced returned to Kelowna and Cleveland and Kansas City. Even for the 59 poor souls who were murdered…the terror returned to their homes…landing with full weight on family and friends and neighbours.

Ask anyone who has survived the almost daily mass shootings in the United States - or a spouse, sister, brother, mother, father, uncle, aunt or friend of someone killed - and you’ll discover they never fully heal.

This isn’t true for most everyone else. Collectively, we have moments of silence, fly flags at half-staff, tweet thoughts and prayers, comment on Facebook a few days…and then move on with our respective lives.

Las Vegas joins a long list of deadly places…Columbine, Tucson, Santa Monica, Hialeah, Terrell, Alturas, Killeen, Isla Vista, Marysville, Charleston, Chapel Hill, Chattanooga, Lafayette, Roanoke, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, Birmingham, Fort Hood and Aurora, Blacksburg, among others.

And as in each of these cases…nothing will happen to prevent a big city or small town in America from becoming the next place on the list of deadly places. I wish I could be more optimistic, but there’s not a shred of evidence to support my wish.

As always, the politicians who stuff their pockets with cash from generous gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association (N.R.A.), exclaim within hours of every mass shooting that “Now is not the time to discuss this…we can’t dish our the victims.” The problem has always been…there’s never a good time. There are exceptions, of course.

It would have been completely different had Stephen Paddock - the Vegas murderer - been Muslim…stood alongside an ISIS flag…or maybe if his face had just a little more colour. Then, there would have been immediate outrage. Twitter would be ablaze with threats and ideas on how to stop the madness. There would have been no prolonged silence to honour victims. America would have acted quickly and decisively.

America will spend almost any amount of money to track down every single ISIS member…we employ Cruise missiles, fighter jets, bombers and drones armed to the teeth. Fewer than 20 Americans have been killed by ISIS…not insignificant…but nowhere near the more than 35,000 Americans killed every year by guns.

But, Stephen Paddock wasn’t Muslim…or an ISIS member…or a person of colour. He was white and relatively wealthy. So, you won’t see House and Senate hearings or inquiries…no special investigatory commissions or task forces…no new laws banning immigrants because, well, he was American…from America. It is incomprehensibly stupid to pursue every ISIS supporter, on the one hand, …and, on the other hand, do absolutely nothing about Americans at risk from other Americans in America.

But America’s current gaggle of politicians won’t spend time or money on even common-sense gun legislation. Hell, these best-that-money-can-buy-politicians - mostly Republicans - don’t even want to talk about or admit the issue. The last time a few members of Congress stood up - or more accurately sat in - to protest a deaf ear to sensible gun control debate, the Republicans took quick action. Unfortunately, that action was a vote to make it illegal to send photos, video or audio of any protest on the House or Senate floors. It passed.

And make no mistake, guns in America affect us here in Canada. If you don’t believe it, ask the families and friends of the four Canadians murdered in Las Vegas…or the seven Canadians who were wounded. I caution every Canadian friend planning a trip to the United States…be careful…in many places - even today - life resembles the Wild West.

In Nevada, for example, you can buy just about any weapon…and you can carry it openly. You don’t even have to register your guns. There is no limit on the size of ammunition magazines. And for just $99 you can make a semi-automatic an automatic with a “bump stock.”

A semi-automatic weapon allows you to fire only one round per trigger squeeze. A “bump stock” attaches to that weapon, replacing the original butt end, and assists the shooter by making the finger “bump” against the trigger. I guess if you’re a really bad hunter this might come in handy. You can even buy silencers, though - quixotically - you have to register them.

The vast majority of Americans just want to be safe…at home, at work and when they travel. These same Americans simply want sensible gun control. They don’t want to take guns away…except for those deemed mentally ill or illegal aliens or convicted felons…you know, bad guys.

These Americans overwhelmingly respect an American’s right to own a gun to hunt or to protect yourself, your family and your property. But, to look the other way as thousands die…because of propaganda and unfounded fears fomented by the N.R.A. that the government wants to take your weapons…is beyond madness.

Even so, I’m through trying to persuade people…soulless politicians. They’re not going to change. Obviously, persuasion doesn’t work. Killing children at Sandy Hook didn’t change politicians minds, and neither will Las Vegas. But, we shouldn’t give up…we should re-direct our energies.

Every American with a soul should find the best person they can find and encourage them to run for office. If you’re Canadian with American friends…challenge them to act…remember, everyone wins or everyone loses. Americans should choose wisely…then donate heavily because the N.R.A. and gun manufacturers have deep pockets and already own far too many politicians.

I’m through trying to convince people who don’t care that they should. Vote them out. It’s all about power…and the power isn’t persuasion because facts don’t seem to matter.

– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.  His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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