I did something today that I never imagined myself doing: I sat down on the sofa with my wife and teen son and played them a video from the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Why? Because my wife and I frequently visit the US, and my son likely will at some point (though he currently shows little desire to, finding my nation baffling and backwards). And at this point in our history, one thing has become obvious.
Anyone going to visit the US should be able to recognize the sound of gunfire.
Even, maybe especially, automatic gunfire. The firing rate in Las Vegas indicates either a fully automatic weapon (one of the only types of guns that is difficult to buy in the US) or a semi-automatic modified with a cheap (less than $100) device to simulate a fully automatic firing rate. The latter is more likely, completely legal, and extremely easy to procure.
Gunfire doesn’t sound like what you hear in the movies or on TV. Unless you’re close to the weapon being fired, it doesn’t have that resonant boom that shakes your subwoofer during an action scene. It sounds like a little pop. “Like firecrackers,” is what witnesses often say. In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, it sounded like a whole lot of pops, a whole string of firecrackers.
(I originally wrote “the most recent mass shooting,” but that is already out of date. Three people died and two were injured in another mass shooting in Lawrence, Kansas yesterday.)
People die because they don’t recognize this sound. They don’t immediately duck and run. I now consider the ability to recognize gunfire a basic safety requirement before crossing the US border.
My son said, “The United States: zero days since the last mass shooting.” Americans, this is how our nation is viewed by the developed world. Except the truth is, we should set that counter at hours, not days. Over the past five years, the US has averaged a mass shooting 9 out of every 10 days.
This shooting was horrific. Families will be torn apart and grieving. Many victims will need long-term care; many others who weren’t injured will need trauma counseling that most of them won’t be able to afford.
But nothing will change, because selling guns and selling fear is making a lot of people very rich — from the manufacturers to the right-wing media stars to the lobbyists to the legislators they buy and the parasites who live off them.
Listen to this sound. If you live in or plan to visit the US, you should be able to recognize it.
EDITED TO ADD: YouTube took down the video I linked to, but it was made by the Guardian, which still has it up. It’s at the top of this page of ongoing updates.