Philip O’Connor, Our Man in Stockholm

A few words from our friend, Philip O’Connor, Our Man in Stockholm

Losing Las Vegas

In the media tent for MayMac – just a few weeks later and a few metres behind where I stand in this pic, 58 people were killed by a gunman armed to the teeth and shooing from the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

A few weeks ago we sat in that white tent in the boiling desert, there to witness one of the biggest fights of all time between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

On Sunday night, music fans visiting the lot-turned-concert-venue witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history.

When things happen in Las Vegas, they can be hard to ignore.

The lot across the street from the Luxor can be anything – a concert venue, a media tent, a trade show, a parking lot.

For MayMac it was the home of the media tent, a white vinyl oasis in the crushing August desert heat.

Outside, day and night, the security guards stood watch, searching our bags and ourselves with good humour, putting us through the metal detectors and making sure we checked in and out with our wristbands.

Every day for five days we made small talk – one man told us how he had come to Nevada from Chicago and had grown to love the dry desert that his grandchildren were now growing up in.

Another younger man wanted our opinions on the fight, a few dollars earned in the blazing sunshine burning a hole in his pocket on the way to the sports book across the street at the Luxor or the Mandalay Bay.

Then there was the supervisor from the midwest, her accent unchanged despite decades spent in Sin City.

The lot on South Las Vegas Boulevard, a short distance form the fabled “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is adaptable, central and out in the open.

In other words, there is nowhere to hide – especially if someone opens fire on it from an elevated position.

From the gold-diggers to the dam-builders, Vegas has always been a rough-and-tumble town where folks go to let their hair down.

It’s big and it’s loud and it wears you out fast, but it’s hard not to love it.

It is one of those places that encapsulates everything about America, good and bad – the ambition, the drive, the will to win, overcoming adversity, the suspicion of regulation and the dream that anyone coming here can be anything they want to be if they just work hard enough.

It’s a place where people have no problem drinking a skinful and getting in their cars, careering home along the I-15.

“The most dangerous thing you can do as a motorcyclist is drive home after dark in a drinking state,” a motorcycle equipment salesman called Aaron told me in July. He has the scars to prove it.

Las Vegas is no longer the Wild West, but there are still plenty of guns about in Clark County.

I know, I’ve fired them.

I’ve fired .357 Magnums, MP4s, AR15s, pump-action shotguns, you name it.

It’s nothing unusual – all along the strip you’ll find flyers from gun ranges that will collect you and drop you off at your hotel in stretch Humvees.

In the meantime, you can fire as many rounds as you can afford from everything from a .38 special revolver all the way up to heavy, powerful weapons.

Don’t believe me? For about three grand you can fire an M60.

From a helicopter.

For the Europeans who make up a small but lucrative part of their clientele, guns can be hard to understand, especially if they have never fired one before.

For those who have, it’s makes slightly more sense – they have experienced having the power of life and death in their hands.

For that is what it is – to have a gun is to have the power to kill someone, or let them live.

It is a feeling so powerful that my friend Angus (an extremely knowledgeable gun owner and instructor) has told me of grown men crying the first time they fire one.

Apparently, it’s not uncommon.

Somehow, the Second Amendment to the Constitution has been interpreted as imparting the right to own and keep a military arsenal in a private home, with little demand for either security or training.

I spoke to Angus at great length about it, and it is no easy subject; nor is there a simple solution.

It’s hard to underestimate how much people distrust politicians in America.

Many want them to provide the bare minimum in terms of upholding law and order, and then just get out of the way.

Much has changed since the Gold Rush, but the self-sufficient mentality that fuelled that frontier spirit is still everywhere you look.

That is what makes rolling the gun laws back so difficult.

For a start, there are so many guns in circulation that it would be almost impossible to collect them all – and that’s before we get to the sense of paranoia and mistrust of the federal government that mean that many won’t give them up without a fight.

There are plenty of gun owners who are well-trained, who keep their weapons secure and who would never dream of marching down the street in combat fatigues in a show of strength to protect their privilege.

There are also and awful lot of them that have access to powerful, lethal firearms who have no idea how to handle them properly, and who lack the maturity to know when to handle them at all.

The Nevada desert is a harsh place at times, and this tragedy is unlikely to change attitudes to guns at all there.

At the root of that desire for lethal power is fear – fear of the other, fear of the unknown, fear of not being able to protect one’s loved ones or oneself.

Fear, as politicians and corporations have long been aware, is a powerful selling tool.

Whereas we see mass shootings as an obvious reason to remove as many weapons as possible from society, those who believe in the right to bear arms see it as the opposite – hence the rise in gun stocks yesterday in the wake of this tragedy.

If America can witness the deaths of children at Sandy Hook and remain unmoved, do not think for one second that the actions of the Mandalay Bay shooter will change anything.

To do that would require a long discussion about whose rights are most important, and a deconstructing of the apparatus of fear, driven by the media, politicians and vested interests, that keeps the buyers coming to gun shops in their droves.

It is a complex problem to solve, but it can be done. Airports are now bastions of security, and smoking is banned pretty much everywhere.

Once the country’s national sport, drink-driving is now frowned-upon in Ireland.

But I won’t hold my breath.

Instead, I’m waiting to pore over the list of the dead to see if any of the security guards on a few bucks an hour who were so friendly to us a few weeks ago are on it.

Because no matter what the outcome of the political or intellectual discussions around the subject are, the undeniable fact is that 58 more people are dead.

Nothing can change that now.

 

 

~ posted by scm

Go Read the Old Stuff!

Loyal followers, the summer and a couple of interesting opportunities have eaten up much of my available time over the next couple of months. Why don’t you take this little hiatus as a chance to catch up on the last decade or so of excellent crap. I’ve cleaned everything up. The links and categories all work so go look around. In the meantime I’ll be training, riding to Sturgis, and having a bit of craic. Expect an update right after Labor Day…