It is difficult to comprehend what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night. How do we work through this in our own minds? We might start by defining what happened, but I don’t think the English language has a term that fits. The closest term that I could find is “mass murder,” but murder has never been executed by a single individual on the scale seen in Las Vegas. When used previously, mass murder generally referred to smaller number of victims. [i] Another word offered is “massacre,” but these generally are perpetrated by more than one individual. The mafia, a gang, or a military unit might commit a massacre. The word “terrorism” is reserved for actions with a political agenda.
Thus, what happened in Las Vegas was mass carnage on a scale so incommensurate that the label mass murder is inadequate. What happened was more horrific than mass murder. Maybe we need a new term: “crowd murder.”
How can we process “crowd murder”? Step one is to grieve for the victims and their families and friends and to offer condolences. We can all pray for the healing of those injured. Step two is to feel sad and worried that our society can generate the kind of person who can premeditate, deliberately plan, and kill massive numbers of people in a crowd. We must be very concerned that this kind thinking and such actions are part of our society. Step three is to figure out what to do about it. Much needs to be done. No single answer will suffice. Inaction is not an option.
How do we get to solutions to such atrocities as crowd murder? We talk about it. One question that needs to be answered is how the cycle of criminality from father to son can be broken? For example, is it possible to provide better community support for the families of incarcerated persons? Another question that needs to be answered is how can the building of vast arsenals of weapons and ammunition by solitary individuals be prevented? Another question is how can the messages in the media that cause some people to think that killing is an option be changed? Related to this is, what role can our educational system play in helping to reduce violence in our society?
This author does not yet know the answers to any questions posed in this essay, but she also cannot remain silent. She believes we can find answers if we consciously and diligently work together to do so.
[i] The Federal Bureau of Investigation has struggled with defining what constitutes mass murder and they determined that four or more murders occurring during the same incident could be deemed “mass murder.” See https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder#two