Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of roughly 22,000 country music fans at the Route 91 Harvest music festival. The final tally: 58 dead and 500+ injured. It was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in the history of the United States, surpassing the 49 killed in the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre.
The public unexpectedly learned a few new things from the 10-1-17 Las Vegas incident.
Aside from reigniting the perpetual debate on gun control, three distinct sub-issues were thrust into the media spotlight.
* Bump stocks
* The proximity of fuel tanks and large crowds
* The prospect of a sniper attack on innocent civilians from an elevated position
All three of these issues share one thing in common. Prior to them surfacing, they were never really available for media scrutiny or public consumption. By and large, all three of them were “undiscussable.”
1. The focus on gun violence abruptly shifted to bump stocks. The purpose of these accessories is to transform semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns. The upgrade is fairly substantial. Instead of 1 or 2 shots per second, the total number of shots “bumps up” to 9-10 shots per second.
Most gun owners purchase weapons for hunting and self defense. However, the majority of gun owners in the United States were unfamiliar with even the mere existence of “bump stocks.” Well, that is… until they became a highly publicized killing appendage.
My point — There will NOW be a public conversation about the pros and cons of bump stocks. Prior to October 1, 2017, there was no such debate.
2. Reports indicate Paddock also targeted two large aviation fuel tanks roughly 2,000 ft. below his 32nd floor suite.
The tanks are situated on land owned by McCarren International Airport. It has been verified that a “single bullet” did penetrate one of 43,000 barrel tanks. However, it failed to cause a fire or explosion. Still, it should be noted that “incendiary bullets” do exist. As does “tracer ammunition.”
My point — Incendiary bullets and tracer ammunition are almost exclusively used in the darkness of night for military grade applications. Prior to October, 1, 2017, they were rarely spoken of in the mainstream media. Well, that is… until the prospect of a massive fireball near 20,000+ individuals became a source of concern.
3. There is ample evidence that Stephen Paddock researched and scouted locations in other cities (Chicago and Boston). Paddock actually booked a room in August for Chicago’s Lollapalooza Festival in Grant Park but never showed up. As for Boston, the hotels in close proximity to Fenway Park did not offer a well-positioned view of the venue. Paddock also rented multiple condos overlooking the “Life is Beautiful” Festival which took place in Las Vegas in late September.
My point — The notion of a sniper with an arsenal of fully automatic machine guns, raining down a torrential downpour of bullets, into a large, confined crowd was basically unspoken of. The mainstream media would never have raised the specter of something like this. Because they’d be assuredly ridiculed for imprudent fear-mongering. You simply can’t talk about it. Well, that is… until it happens.
So what have we learned about these real-world hypotheticals? Well, we discovered that certain issues are, by their very nature, undiscussable. As Americans witnessed with 9-11, you really can’t have an informed discussion about the possibility of hijacked civilian aircraft functioning as 250,000 lb. Tomahawk cruise missiles… until it happens. You can’t have an on-air discussion about weaponized anthrax… until people become targeted recipients via the U.S. postal service.
Such scenarios involve having realistic discussions about incredibly ugly hypothetical outcomes. Ones so abhorrent they border on that which is inconceivable. In government, in private industry, and even in the press, the sensitive social mores which govern these conversations render them unspoken. Incidentally, that’s how meaningful shifts in public policy occur. Bad things happen. Conventional norms get challenged. And to be blunt, this usually involves large numbers of people dying (breached dams, forest fires, nuclear meltdowns and other mass casualty events).
So what’s my point? Much like the prospect of an artificially generated stampede or worst case scenario “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous stampedes), you aren’t going to hear about the cause —a wireless saturation or cellular-induced panic… until it happens. Or at the very least, is attempted.
The wireless equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater has wide-ranging implications. This topic is transformative. It involves very sensitive subject matter from a variety of perspectives: cyber-security, public safety, situational awareness and human rights. It’s my contention that humanity would not be receptive to a discussion about the specific cause of how scores of innocent people were crush asphyxiated or trampled to death. All part of a malicious hoax no less. Unless of course, it were to happen.
My final point — The concerns I raise involve an incredibly generic concept with a discernible inevitability in play. They apply to large crowds everywhere (stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways and so on). One of these days, I suspect an individual or group will decisively test the cracks in the system.
So what’s worse? Having an admittedly uncomfortable conversation OR coping with the fallout from a preventable tragedy? You decide.
Like I’ve been saying, bad things never happen. Well, until…