Did You Donate To The NRA In The Wake Of The Las Vegas Attack?

But the National Rifle Association also stands to make big money after mass shootings. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, the NRA’s political action committee raised $2.7 million in just a few months, a 350 percent increase over the same period the prior year.

Did you donate to the NRA after the Las Vegas shooting? Why? We want to hear your story. Send an email to andy.campbell@huffpost.com and we’ll talk about it.

How The Las Vegas Massacre Unfolded

LAS VEGAS ― It was just after 9:40 p.m. when Donny Lee, his wife and some friends watched country superstar Jason Aldean take the stage to close out the Route 91 Harvest festival, a three-day country music celebration that drew fans from around the country to the famed Las Vegas Strip.

Lee’s group was among the 22,000 people packing the 15-acre open-air venue for three days of country-tinged revelry in the nation’s most prominent party city. Held in a former parking lot near the Luxor and Mandalay Bay resorts, the festival known as the “neon sleepover billed itself as a relatively intimate chance for country fans to see some of their favorite artists in one place. For many attendees, the early fall gathering — this year celebrating its fourth anniversary — had become an annual tradition. It was the last night of the festival, and the grounds were packed.

“When Jason Aldean came up, we were at our seats, standing there, singing, dancing,” Lee, who works as an investigator in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and who was off-duty at the time, recalled. “As we’re standing there, we hear the first few gunshots.”

Around 10:15 p.m., a few bars into Aldean’s 2012 hit “When She Says Baby,” a rapid series of pops echoed across the festival grounds. The first few were muted, nothing like the rapid sounds many would have immediately recognized as gunfire.

“My wife looked at me and asked me what it was,” Lee said. “I didn’t think it was gunshots, because it was too subdued and if it was gunshots it was something small and farther away.”

For a brief moment, the bangs went silent.

Cassie Burgoon, who has traveled from Rancho Cucamonga, California, each year to attend the festival with her mom, heard the initial shots as well. “Out of nowhere, everyone heard about five pops and a saw a little bit of smoke, and we all looked around thinking maybe it was a firecracker.”

“I thought to myself, ‘That’s weird, why is someone lighting off fireworks in a big crowd like this? That’s so dangerous,’” said California-based concertgoer Michaela Gallo.  

Aldean continued to play for a few moments before abruptly running backstage. It was then the crowd began to realize something had gone horribly wrong.

“There was a little bit of a pause, I would say 10 seconds, a short pause,” Lee remembered. “Then you heard some rapid fire, the first barrage of rapid fire.”

We heard guys behind us say ‘Run,’ and that’s when we knew,” Burgoon said. “It just kept going and going. The shots never stopped after those first five.”

A chaotic scene on the festival grounds

Chaos broke out as fans scrambled to escape the shots raining down on them from seemingly all directions. Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, had opened fire on the crowd from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, roughly 400 yards from the festival’s main stage.

Police believe Paddock, who checked into the hotel on Thursday, smashed two of his room’s windows with a hammer or similar object, positioned two rifles with scopes on tripods in front of those windows and began firing. He set up cameras inside and outside of his hotel room, possibly to monitor who was entering the hallway. Equipped with more than 20 guns and a large cache of ammunition, Paddock fired off hundreds of rounds in a span of roughly nine minutes. After some time, Paddock is believed to have turned one of his guns on himself, taking his own life before authorities could reach his room.

Down on the festival grounds, people screamed as they fled the stage area, some throwing themselves to the ground to avoid the bullets. Some people crawled, looking for anything they could use to shield themselves. Others made a run for the fences, hauling themselves and others over the barriers separating the grounds from the rest of the strip.

Lee, the off-duty cop, started yelling at people: “We need to go, we need to start moving.” Other concertgoers were telling people in the crowd to stay down, but 18 years of experience told Lee he had to keep moving.

“My wife was behind a trash can, and as she’s behind it, the trash can got hit by what I can only assume was a bullet, because there was nobody around and the trash can gets jolted away from her,” Lee said. “You hear the bullets hitting the bleachers and all around you.”

“It was so loud and it just kept going and going,” said Shauna Vasquez of Midland, Texas. “We saw a guy behind us drop down and he was shot in the head, so we just all dropped to the ground. His wife was screaming at him to wake up.”

“We crawled over people and everything,” she continued. She lost her shoes, she said, and her husband had someone’s blood on his shirt. “I just remember the faces of the people who were lying there lifeless.”

At one point, everywhere Lee looked, he saw people down, bleeding out and severely wounded.

“There were people carrying a female who had obviously been shot and looked like she was deceased,” he remembered. “There was another person who was down and had been shot. There were people who were deceased all around us.”

“At one point, I thought, ‘Why isn’t he dead yet? Where are the cops? They should be shooting at him and taking him down!’” Brandi Klemme Quan of Rossmoor, California, told HuffPost. “I had no idea or even thought for a second that [the] gunman was up in his hotel room, shooting at us as we were sitting ducks in that wide open space with nowhere to hide.”

Backstage was just as confusing and chaotic. Gallo, who was there to see friends play in the band Big & Rich, was hanging out in the backstage area when she moved to the side of the stage to see some of Aldean’s set. After Aldean left the stage, Gallo and her friends sought shelter behind a tour bus.

“We couldn’t tell where it was coming from, if it was multiple people shooting,” she said. “At times it sounded really close, [at] other times far away. It was very confusing.”

The escape

Police, meanwhile, began to piece together and respond to what was happening.

“It’s coming from upstairs in the Mandalay Bay,” one officer said on the police scanner. “I see the shots coming.”  

“Las Vegas Metro Police Department, their officers, were absolutely heroes through this whole entire thing,” Lee said. “While everyone was running way, they were running towards that, even though they knew they were outgunned.”

Between bursts of gunfire, Lee and his friends were trying to find an escape route, but exits were bottlenecked with mobs of people trying to escape the venue.

“People are running all over the place. No amount of training prepares you for something like this,” Lee said. At one point, he and his friends crawled under the bleachers for safety, but he quickly realized they had to keep moving if they were going to survive.

They kept moving, but he wasn’t going to head out without some protection, Lee said. He found a two-foot piece of pipe under the bleachers and took it with him “so that I had something in case we ran into somebody as we came around the corner.”

Exiting the venue would prove extremely difficult for many. Survivors spoke of entry gates that appeared to be blocked off as the chaos grew, and openings in fences too small for more than a single person to fit through.

Brent Poppen of Paso Robles, California, who uses a wheelchair and was watching the concert from a raised platform reserved for accessible seating, said a “wave of thousands of people” rushed toward where he was sitting when the gunfire broke out.

“You’d hear popping going off with guns, and every time there was a pop it would just cause an influx of hysteria,” he said.

With the help of a friend and his wife, Poppen made his way down a ramp, across the rubble of garbage, folding chairs and downed fences strewn about the venue, through a walkway, and eventually back to his hotel, the Hooters Casino Hotel, where other victims also fled to.

“There’s literally blood all over the carpet, on the walls,” he said. “When you open the elevator doors, the floor was full of blood.”

By the time Paddock stopped shooting, he had killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500 others.

Hotel guests on lockdown

As the shooting unfolded, Mandalay Bay guests were placed under lockdown and given few details about what was going on.

Brian Buonassissi of New York was in his room on the 27th floor when the gunfire began. He and other guests received an automated call on the hotel phones telling them to stay in their rooms with the doors locked.

“I put a chair against the door,” he said. “I didn’t really know what was going to happen.”

By 10:25 p.m., police had figured out which room the shots were coming from and had surrounded the hallway. They breached the room nearly an hour later, and found the shooter dead from an apparent self-inflicted wound.

Those staying on the 32nd floor — the same floor from which Paddock carried out the massacre — were evacuated by SWAT teams.

Other hotels across the city also took in an influx of festival-goers fleeing the chaos on the strip. False rumors spread about multiple shooters across the city and bomb threats at nearby hotels.

“We had no idea what was accurate,” Gallo said.

Survivors scrambled to get in touch with loved ones and post on social media to let their friends know they were OK.

“We were just up all night making phone calls,” Poppen said. “You don’t sleep.”

Lee, meanwhile, had run with his wife to the nearby Tropicana casino, still unsure if there were multiple shooters or if the threat was ongoing.

“The information people were giving was all over the place ― security telling you to lay down, telling you to run,” he said. “All I knew is we needed to continue moving. So we move through the Tropicana, yelling at people to move, move.”

They eventually made their way into the MGM Grand, coming upon an exterior emergency door that an MGM security guard tried to block them from using.

“I sternly told him, ‘No, we are going this way,’ and I [opened] the door myself,” Lee said.

They burst into a high-stakes poker room where no one seemed to know what was going on just down the strip.

“There’s bloody people, muddy people, dirty people who are running for their lives, and the people playing slot machines are totally oblivious about what is going on,” Lee said. “It was almost like you’re running by and they’re so entranced by the machines they’re playing that they’re like zombies, pulling the arms, totally oblivious. It was really a surreal feeling.”

Details begin to emerge about what happened

As Sunday turned into Monday, initial details of the police’s investigation emerged. At an early morning press conference, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at least 20 people had been killed and 50 had been injured.

By 8:30 a.m., the death toll had risen to 58, while the number of people injured swelled to 515. Police offered more information on Paddock —  he lived in an upscale retirement community in nearby Mesquite; he’d frequented Las Vegas hotels and casinos; he had more than a dozen firearms and thousands of rounds of ammo stockpiled at home — but had no answers as to why he decided to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Police began to identify some of those killed in the massacre. One victim was an off-duty Las Vegas policeman. Another was a grandmother of five.

Some Las Vegans gathered at City Hall Monday evening to hold a vigil, lighting candles to represent each victim.

“Everybody in this community has been so touched by the loss of these lives and the horror of the mentally sick, horrible human being who has taken into his hands devastation and imprinted in our minds forever a day that really doesn’t belong in our fabulous, beautiful city,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the crowd. “We know that we have the resilience to move forward.”

Hospitals quickly overwhelmed by hundreds of patients

At least five area hospitals took in hundreds of victims, calling in reinforcements to help treat scores of traumatic injuries.

Ashley Juste, a trauma nurse who used to work at Sunrise and went to the hospital to help Sunday evening, told CBS News of horrific injuries and frantic family members. According to doctors, the hospital had 30 operating rooms working at once.

“All gunshot wounds. Extremities, ankles, hands, chests, arms, some people who were more severe were taken to the operating room right away because they were very, very critical,” Juste said. “A lot of people frantic, asking for their family members, people asking for their spouses… but there’s so many people there, no one has a name. Everyone comes under an alias, because there’s just too many patients to get names down, so that was very hard.”

“There were about 190 people taking up every single bed possible, every single room possible, every single hallway possible,” Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), who visited Sunrise Hospital Sunday night, told NPR. “Every single nurse, every single doctor from all over the city came and are assisting a lot of these victims.”

Over at University Medical Center, every bed was full. “We had people in the hallways, people outside and more people coming in,” Dr. Jay Coates told ABC.

Karissa Barcelo, who lives nearby on the Strip, heard news of the shooting and set off for Sunrise Hospital to see how she could help. When she arrived, the medical center was in “pure chaos,” she said.

Barcelo offered to help in any way she could, but was turned away due to the sheer number of people flooding the hospital.

By 4 a.m., people eager to help the victims had lined up outside blood banks across the city. By mid-afternoon, many of those centers were at capacity and couldn’t accept any more volunteers.  

One survivor even took it upon herself to bring her truck to the scene to help transport victims to nearby hospitals.

Life in Vegas carries on

On Tuesday, security tightened further at Mandalay Bay and around it. Staff barred reporters and other media from the casino floor. Police and federal investigators surveilled a crime scene consisting of multiple city blocks, leaving some businesses closed and apartment complexes cordoned off within the affected area.

Tourists gathered on Las Vegas Boulevard and on a bridge that crosses it, gawking at the closed-down blocks of the strip. Some visitors took selfies in front of the Excalibur’s faux-castle exterior, the throng of media and police, or the towering Mandalay Bay itself, with its two gaping window holes from which Paddock had opened fire. Balloons and bouquets of flowers peppered the streets that remained open. Tourists roamed the boulevard with beers and novelty cocktails. A couple in a rented convertible, phones held aloft, snapping selfies in front of the cordoned-off zone, pulled into a parking lot and shouted, “What happened?”

Among those walking around on the strip Tuesday afternoon were Johanna Ernst and George Sanchez, two survivors of Sunday’s shooting. Sanchez was shot in the arm while diving for cover near the sound booth at the festival stage.

The two were eventually reunited outside the venue. The bullet that hit Sanchez is still in his left arm, he said.

“This puts everything into perspective, most definitely. You can’t pinpoint one emotion, you cannot,” Sanchez said. “We’ve gone through anger, we’ve gone through pain, being grateful for being alive of course, the sorrow for all those that are not with us. It’s a range of emotions. But most of all we’re grateful to be here.”

Hayley Miller and Nick Robins-Early contributed reporting.

Stephen Paddock Had Deadly But Legal Gun Device That ‘Simulates Automatic Fire’

When law enforcement officials searched through Stephen Paddock’s arsenal of weapons, they discovered that 12 of his 47 firearms were outfitted with a deadly device that allows a semiautomatic weapon to perform more like a fully automatic weapon.

The device used to modify the firearm is known as a “bump stock.” Officials say it allows firearms to fire hundreds of rounds per minute.

Unlike fully automatic weapons, which are strictly regulated under federal law, bump stocks are relatively accessible to civilians, with some advertised online for $100.

“Converting a semiautomatic to fully automatic is very, very easy,” John Sullivan, lead engineer for the gun advocacy group Defense Distributed, told Wired. “At the end of the day, machine guns are easy to make.”

A bump stock replaces a rifle’s standard stock, the part of the rifle that rests on the shoulder, adding a “support step” that covers the trigger opening.

A bump stock allows the body of the rifle to slide a short distance back and forth, harnessing the recoil energy of each shot. The shooter does not move the trigger finger; instead, the weapon bounces, or “bumps,” rapidly between shoulder and finger.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has been working on legislation that would ban bump stock modifications, said on Twitter that the device allows semiautomatic weapons to fire “up to 800 rounds per minute ― the rate of automatic weapons ― and inflict maximum carnage.”

Through smashed windows in his 32nd-floor hotel room, Paddock opened fire Sunday night on the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, which drew a crowd of more than 22,000 people. 

At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured as bullets rained down on the concertgoers. The rapid firing of the bullets caused many witnesses to believe the gunman was using a fully automatic weapon.

“All of a sudden we heard what sounded like a machine gun and people just started screaming that they were hit and to get down,” witness Megan Kearny told NBC News. “About every 20 seconds after that you would hear a round of machine guns, and people just dropping, hundreds of bodies over the ground.”

Jill Snyder, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters on Tuesday that 12 weapons found in Paddock’s hotel room had “bump fire stock” devices, though she did not say which firearms were used in the shooting.

“Bump fire stock, while simulating automatic fire, do not actually alter the firearm to fire automatically, making them legal under current federal law,” Snyder said.

Bump stocks are legal, according to the ATF, because they do not permanently modify the firearm nor do they constitute a mechanical modification of the device. However, they remain highly controversial.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, defended the use of bump stock devices, which gun advocates say they use for entertainment.

“Ultimately, when Congress… looks at this, they’ll start asking questions about why anybody needs this, and I think the answer is we have a Bill of Rights and not a Bill of Needs,” Pratt told the AP.

After Sunday’s deadly mass shooting, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) called for a ban of bump stock modifications “and other devices that turn legal semi-automatic firearms into lethal fully-automatic machine guns.”

“To those who say we can’t talk about machine gun massacres right after the massacre: I’m done waiting for the ‘right time’ to talk about it,” Inslee said in a statement Tuesday. “The ‘can’t talk about it now’ crowd is killing us.”

The Double Standard In How The Media Is Portraying The Las Vegas Shooter

As the nation reels from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, some people have noticed a double standard in how the media has portrayed 64-year-old Stephen Paddock versus other mass shooters.

Paddock shot into a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas on Sunday, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500 before authorities found him dead in his hotel room with a cache of weapons.

As the news broke, major outlets across the country wrote headlines that humanized Paddock, pointing out that he was a country music fan, for example. They also portrayed his violent act as an anomaly, labeling him a “lone wolf” who “doesn’t fit [the] mass shooter profile” rather than a part of a systemic problem of violence by white men in this country.

Past mass shooters who were nonwhite or Muslim have been depicted quite differently ― and so have people of color who were victims of gun violence.

“There’s a clear difference in the way this kind of incident is treated and the way it would be treated if it were actually associated with Islam or Muslims,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost. “It would be instantly called an act of domestic or even international terrorism; it wouldn’t be individualized, but collectivized to the entire Muslim community or faith of Islam.”

Here are some ways white shooters are privileged in the media:

White killers are often humanized.

Less than 12 hours after Paddock shot and killed dozens of people, a headline from The Washington Post focused on the fact that he “liked to gamble, listened to country music, lived quiet retired life.”

People on Twitter were quick to point out that nonwhite and Muslim perpetrators of violence don’t often get such humanizing profiles after the fact.

By contrast, some media coverage of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody in 2015, focused on her “prior run-ins with the law.”

And after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, was shot by police in 2014, the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown spread on social media as people of color wondered how the media would depict them if they were killed.

What’s more, after Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, at least one headline stated that Paddock “doesn’t fit [the] mass shooter profile,” noting his lack of a known criminal record.

Actually, Paddock precisely fits that profile. Most mass shooters and domestic terrorists in this country have been white, multiple studies show.

“There is nothing wrong with including human details in reporting, but when we choose to do it is telling,” Farai Chideya, a longtime journalist who has been reporting on white extremism for more than 25 years, told HuffPost in an email. 

“In many cases when there is a white mass-shooter or domestic terrorist, we get personal details about them, like the reports that the Las Vegas shooter was a country music fan,” she added. “But how often do we learn personal details about terrorists and mass killers, or even street criminals in the US, when they are not white? Who gets humanized in news coverage is important ― and telling.”

White killers are often described as “lone wolves” with mental health issues.

Just hours after the mass shooting in Vegas, the media was calling Paddock a “lone wolf.” Yet there are clear disparities in who receives this label: After Muslim people commit acts of violence, critics often point to Islam as the root of the problem, and when black people are involved in shootings, they point to the myth of ”black-on-black crime.”

When white people commit mass violence, however, there is often an emphasis on the fact they were acting alone. The implicit assumption is that they are in no way responsible for representing the larger demographic group they belong to. 

What’s more, the response to the Las Vegas shooter follows another familiar pattern: White violence is often explained away as a mental health issue.

While some perpetrators of terror attacks indeed had histories of mental illness, the problem with consistently portraying white perpetrators as mentally ill is not only that it excuses them to some extent for their actions, but also that it prevents the public from calling for more appropriate policy solutions to the wider, systemic problem of white men and gun violence.

White killers are almost never labeled as terrorists.

Though shooting into a crowd of thousands certainly terrorized those who were present, the Las Vegas shooter has not been officially labeled a terrorist.

When it comes to mass violence by white people, news outlets have repeatedly been criticized for their slowness to label attacks by white perpetrators as “terrorism,” while they’re more likely to use the label when attackers are perceived as nonwhite ― and specifically, Muslim.

Part of the problem is that officially labeling a violent event is complicated. For officials to label an act as terrorism, the perpetrator has to be motivated by political or ideological beliefs.

But motive isn’t always easy to determine ― and even when it seems clear, the results aren’t always as expected: Many people condemned the government for not labeling Dylann Roof a terrorist after he killed nine black people in a Charleston church in 2015, even though he said he was there “to shoot black people,” according to witnesses.

Las Vegas police say they are still working to find a motive in Sunday’s mass shooting, and Sheriff Joe Lombardo stated at a Monday news briefing that the shooter could just be “a distraught person just intending to cause mass casualties.” But NPR reports that Undersheriff Kevin McMahill described the shooting as an act of “domestic terrorism.”

Meanwhile, people on Twitter have called for Paddock to be labeled a terrorist.

White killers often get a pass from the president.

President Donald Trump responded to Sunday’s attack by calling it an “act of pure evil” and tweeted out his “warmest condolences” to the victims and families.

For instance, after the fatal shooting of a policeman in Paris in April, for which the self-described Islamic State claimed responsibility, Trump tweeted that the “people of France will not take much more of this.” And after a truck attack and stabbing in London in June that was also claimed by ISIS, Trump condemned it and called on courts to reinstate a travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries. 

Yet after Sunday’s attack on his own soil, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Trump did not call for any action or policy changes to prevent such attacks in the future.

“I can guarantee you, President Trump would have reacted differently ― it would have been night and day ― if there was some association with Islam,” CAIR’s Hooper told HuffPost. “He would have called it terrorism, there would have been calls for extreme, extreme vetting.”

As the seemingly endless cycle of mass shootings in the U.S. goes on ― Sunday’s attack was the 273rd this year ― some people are calling for the country to reject the all-too-common response when white men commit deadly attacks: extending thoughts and prayers, but taking no real action.

Suspect’s Motive Still Unclear One Day After Mass Shooting At Las Vegas Festival

One day after a gunman carried out a deadly mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas, the suspect’s motive still remains unclear to the public.

All but three of the people killed on Sunday have been identified, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said during a Tuesday press conference.

Investigators have uncovered some information about the attack, Lombardo added, but would not reveal the information to the public because the investigation is ongoing. 

At least 59 people were killed and 527 others wounded when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay hotel late Sunday night. There were approximately 22,000 concertgoers at the festival when it was interrupted by rapid gunfire around 10 p.m., causing widespread panic and bloodshed. 

After the attack, police officers found Paddock dead in his hotel room of an apparent self-inflicted wound.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

House Set To Vote On Pro-Gun Bill

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As Usual, The NRA Goes Into Hiding After A Deadly Mass Shooting

On Sunday night, a man opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing at least 58 people and wounding more than 500. It is one of the deadliest mass shootings in history.

As usual, members of Congress quickly put out milquetoast statements offering their “thoughts and prayers,” without any indication that they will follow up with legislative action. 

And the National Rifle Association, the group most responsible for creating a nation awash in easily obtainable firearms, went into hiding. 

Nevada, like many states, has extremely lax gun laws. It’s completely legal to walk down the crowded Las Vegas Strip with a machine gun out in the open. 

As of Monday afternoon, the NRA had not yet put out a statement on the shooting or acknowledged it on Twitter. A spokesman did not return HuffPost’s request for comment. The group has canceled a week’s worth of advertising, which was set to begin Tuesday, aimed at Virginians in next month’s state elections. 

“The NRA has done a very good job of making a lot of people feel that more guns are the answer in America. More people carrying more guns in more places make us more safe. And that’s simply wrong,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “When events like the tragedy in Las Vegas happen, the NRA goes quiet because they realize that the myth that they’ve been peddling to the American public has the possibility of being exposed.” 

There’s a lot of dog-whistling from the NRA because they want us to be afraid of one another.
Shannon Watts, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

The NRA’s standard response to mass shootings is to go initially silent, then come out in full force. Anyone looking for contrition from the gun lobbying group in the wake of the Vegas tragedy will likely be sorely disappointed. 

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre advocated for more guns to stop mass shootings, famously saying, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Two days after the June 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a top NRA official blamed the Obama administration and “political correctness” for the shooting.

“I’m sure right now they’re huddling and trying to create a message that would make them not vulnerable,” Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said of the NRA. “They have legislation they want to protect. But unlike years past, this will not be an opportunity to say, you better buy guns because the president is going to confiscate them.”

While Barack Obama was in office, the NRA constantly warned gun owners that the president was going to take away their Second Amendment rights. Having Obama in the White House was very good for their business. 

Watts said that now, with a Republican Congress and a Republican president, the NRA will have to change tactics. 

“What we’ve seen them do is because they don’t have a bogeyman in the White House, they’re trying to make Americans afraid of one another,” she said. “They’ve gotten very involved in the president’s culture war. They’re very involved in the national anthem-kneeling drama going on nationally. There’s a lot of dog-whistling from the NRA because they want us to be afraid of one another.”

The Las Vegas shooting “doesn’t fall into any of those categories,” she went on. “This is a 64-year-old white man, as far as we can tell, who was a retiree in Nevada. This is the demographic of an NRA gun owner.”

Congress famously failed to enact meaningful gun safety legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, where the shooter killed his mother, six other adults, 20 children and then himself. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who represented the district as a congressman, has made fighting for gun violence prevention his life’s work. 

“I realized that I was not going to consider myself a success in public service if I didn’t deliver on something here,” Murphy said on an episode of the “Candidate Confessional” podcast earlier this year. “And that still scares the hell out of me. I’m now four years into the Senate and I have not delivered any meaningful federal legislative success on this issue. And to the extent I will run for re-election, it is in part because, boy, I just can’t imagine hanging up my spikes and having to sit down with [one of the parents] or whomever and tell them, ‘Yeah, I didn’t get it done.’” 

Listen to the full episode here: 

Both Watts and Gardiner said they are frustrated by observers who say it isn’t possible to fight the NRA. Watts pointed to progress made at the state level, noting that gun safety advocates have “passed many good gun laws at the state level, and we have stopped so many bad bills, because we now have a grassroots army that can go toe-to-toe with the NRA.”

“That Congress has not acted on [universal background checks for gun sales] yet means only that we need to work harder to get them to do it now,” Gardiner said.

On Monday, the White House said it would be “premature” to discuss gun policy. The NRA spent more than $30 million to get Donald Trump elected. 

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What We Know About The Las Vegas Shooting Victims

What We Know About The Las Vegas Shooting Victims | HuffPost

This is what we know about the victims whose names have been released.

Lisa Romero

Lisa Romero was a secretary at Miyamura High School in Gallup, New Mexico. Romero’s cousin Ashley Romero told HuffPost that Lisa was a “happy-go-lucky person.”

“She loved her kids and husband. And for this to happen so senselessly. It’s a heartbreaking day for us all,” she said. 

Quinton Robbins, 20

Quinton Robbins was a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and worked in city government in his hometown of Henderson, Nevada.

Robbins’ friend Tyce Jones described him as a “pay-it-forward kinda guy” to Newsweek. In a Facebook post, his aunt Kilee Wells Sanders called him “the most kind and loving soul.”

“Everyone who met him loved him,” she wrote. “His contagious laugh and smile. He was truly an amazing person. He will be missed by so many, he is loved by so many.”

Sonny Melton, 29

Registered nurse Sonny Melton of Paris, Tennessee, died while protecting his wife, Dr. Heather Gulish Melton.

“He saved my life,” Melton told USA Today. “He grabbed me from behind and started running when I felt him get shot in the back.”

Jordan McIldoon, 23

McIldoon was from Maple Ridge, British Columbia. His parents, Al and Angela McIldoon, confirmed their son’s death to CBC. They told the outlet that he was attending the music festival with his girlfriend and was expected to return on Monday night. 

Jessica Klymchuk, 28

Jessica Klymchuk lived in Valleyview, Alberta, and was a single mother of four. She was visiting Las Vegas with her fiancé when she was killed, according to CityNews Edmonton. 

Adrian Murfitt, 35

Charleston Hartfield, 34 

Known as “Charles” or “Chucky,” Las Vegas police officer Charleston Hartfield was also a military veteran who coached youth football. A friend described him as “seriously one of the nicest guys ever” and “the most true-blue American guy I’ve ever met” to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Sandy Casey

Special education teacher Sandy Casey was identified as one of the victims by Manhattan Beach Unified School District in Southern California.

“She’s absolutely loved by students and colleagues alike and will be remembered for her sense of humor, her passion for her work, her devotion to her students, her commitment to continue her own learning and taking on whatever new projects came her way,” district superintendent Mike Matthews said in a statement obtained by Los Angeles station KABC.

Angie Gomez

Angie Gomez, who graduated from California’s Riverside Polytechnic High School in 2015, has been identified by her former school’s PTSA as one of the victims.

“Please join me in lifting her and her family up in prayer. She will always be loved and endeared by our Poly Family,” a post on the school’s Facebook page read.

Denise Burditus

Denise Burditus of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was attending the concert with her husband, Tony, when she was fatally shot.

Her husband wrote on Facebook that his wife died in his arms.

“It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of five this evening in the Las Vegas shooting,” read the post, which was obtained by the West Virginia MetroNews.

Denise had shared a number of photos of her and her husband enjoying the three-day Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, including in the hours before the shooting.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

CORRECTION: This piece previously indicated that Nick Robone was fatally wounded. UNLV has issued a statement saying he underwent surgery to remove the bullet from his chest and “is expected to make a full recovery.

Mass Shootings And Our Endless Cycle Of American Carnage

One of the more rewarding/unsettling things I was involved in was when I spent several months producing a satirical digital short with two of my peers. The project turned out well and was even featured here on HuffPost.

What was unsettling about it, however, was the reason why we chose the subject matter. We wanted it to be relevant from the time we started to the time we finished. So naturally, we chose to make it about the gun debate in the United States.

Whether it is in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, military locations, movie theaters, places of worship, office buildings, medical buildings, apartment buildings, salons, supermarkets, immigration centers, shopping malls, night clubs, random places on the street or most recently the Las Vegas Strip, the result of all these mass shootings is always the same.*** A lot of people die, we pray, we mourn, we do nothing, and then repeat once the next tragedy occurs. (***For brevity mass shooting locations only from the last ten years were listed).

This cycle of death and inaction was so familiar that my peers and I knew our gutless leaders would fail to take action as the periodical widespread slaughter of innocent people continued to plague the country. And just like that, three days after we released our video, the most deadly shooting in the history of the United States at the time took place after 49 people were fatally gunned down and dozens more wounded at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

From the beginning, we had hoped that our video through its absurdity would bring a new perspective to the debate and maybe help change a few minds on the issue. Since then this uniquely American carnage has only gotten worse as we mark a new most deadly mass shooting in the history of the United States with at least 58 dead (at the time of this post) and over 500 injured.

At this point, luck, unfortunately, is our best bet at avoiding a senseless and random death from a mass shooter because there are not enough courageous, reasonable, or decent people in Washington to address our nation’s horrific gun epidemic.

As grim as the situation is, elections offer a glint of hope. And we have one coming up in 2018. Here we can make small but pivotal strides in electing sensible officials to replace the callous, feeble-minded individuals masquerading as leaders who feel more beholden to political organizations than the citizens they represent.

Until then, do not hesitate to call your representatives and seek out other peaceful avenues to keep the debate alive. No matter your opinion on this issue, inaction only begets more violence. We can always do better.



America Remains Addicted To Triggers And In Denial

According to MassShootingTracker.com — and that website with that name actually exists says everything about America’s sickening gun culture — there have been 337 mass shootings in our country this year before today’s headline grabbing massacre of at least 50 dead with over 100 injured in Las Vegas.

Oh, if only there weren’t more good people with guns in attendance who could have shot back at the madman firing from the 32nd floor. Surely, the only conceivable way to stop something like this from ever happening again is to make sure that everyone is armed.

What, too soon?

Forgive me, I know, I shouldn’t be talking about gun control now. It is disrespectful to the victims and their families. I should remain silent as the usual news cycle plays out, or at least wait until we know more about what happened. But actually what we don’t know yet tells us a lot.

Since the incident has not been labeled “terrorism,” which is exactly what it is, we know there is no evidence as yet that the perpetrator is Muslim. Since race has not been mentioned, we know that the perpetrator is white. Since so many people were shot, we know the perpetrator had an arsenal at his disposable and that it would surprise no one if all of his weapons were legal.

The thing with mass shootings this year is that they have not been especially newsworthy. Just not enough people killed. Admittedly, the year got off to a promising start with four murdered in South Carolina on New Year’s Day, followed by five more in Oregon and five more in Florida over the next week. But with many mass shootings, the victims merely suffer traumatic injures rather than death, and that is so much less sensational. So what if 10 were injured by gunshots, including eight teenagers, in Tennessee? They lived, so what’s news about that?

Since race has not been mentioned, we know that the perpetrator is white.

In June, six were murdered by a former co-worker in Orlando, and while that got some media attention (work place shooting always make for compelling stories and possibly mini-series), with the dead still in the single digits, we couldn’t realistically expect more than 48-hours of coverage.

The Congressional baseball shooting in June was big news because of who was targeted, but again, with so many survivors and the feel-good story of Steve Scalise’s recovery, it now barely qualifies as horrible.

But now we finally have our first horrifically massive shooting of the year, one with sufficient shock value to demand our attention. It is already being called “the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” so we are going to be hearing about this one for at least 72 hours before it disappears from the news.

At least we can count on the president to respond with great empathy and sensitivity — no, wait.

Here’s the thing: I would like to turn away from this story this morning. Everything about it disturbs and repulses me. But I am sitting here at my desk reflecting on it because it is the only way I know how to express my sorrow for those whose lives were senselessly destroyed for the crime of attending a country music festival. It is also the only way I know how to grieve for my country, a country that has long lost its way as far as the sensible regulation of firearms. Our culture is sick with violence and our gun problem is more symptom than cause, though in reality it is both.

We are addicted to triggers and refuse treatment. And we all know what happens when an addict refuses treatment.

For our culture to get well, we need to enroll in a national 12-step program for guns. We must become deeply aware and take responsibility for the ongoing violence that our culture tacitly permits. Of course, that by itself is not the answer, because there is no singular answer. But until we admit that our guns laws, or rather lack thereof, are a key part of the problem, then we are enablers of the violence we claim to abhor.

Joe Raiola is Senior Editor of MAD Magazine and Producer of the Annual John Lennon Tribute in NYC. He has performed his solo show, “The Joy of Censorship” in over 40 states.

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