As the United States grapples with the deadliest mass shooting in its history, the depth of the massacre deepens. Updates to the Las Vegas shooting show that hundreds of people were injured, with 406 reportedly being taken to area hospitals. Official reports haven't been issued yet, but the injuries seem to be divided between those who were struck by gunfire, and those who were trampled in the rush to safety.
The tragedy took place on Oct. 1, at around 10:00pm local time, as attendees of a music festival gathered to watch Jason Aldean perform. The country star was the closing act of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival, which began on Sep. 29 and hosted an estimated 40,000 people. Police state that approximately 22,000 were on-site Sunday night when shots began to ring out.
They were being fired from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, which is situated diagonally from the Route 91 Harvest mainstage, across Las Vegas Boulevard. The shooter was in a room on the hotel's 32nd floor, where he fired round after round on the assembled crowd below. The 64-year old white man responsible has been identified by authorities and was found dead in his room by the Las Vegas SWAT team. The preliminary cause of death seems to be a self-inflicted gunshot; police speculate that the Nevada native took his own life before his room could be raided.
His arsenal reportedly contained 10 rifles, but it's not yet clear which weapons he used in the commission of this senseless crime. Survivors say that the volley of gunfire lasted for between five and 10 minutes — an eternity when you're dodging bullets and running for your life. A witness on the ground described the carnage to the Washington Examiner as "shooting fish in a barrel."
Police are still struggling to find a motive for the attack, which, with 50 known fatalities, becomes the deadliest mass shooting in our country's history, eclipsing the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, which claimed 49 victims. The shooter in that tragedy aligned himself with ISIS, crediting the violence to the Islamic State. But authorities have ruled out overseas terrorism in this case, with country sheriff Joe Lombardo referring to the perpetrator instead as a "lone wolf."
He likely intended it to mean that the shooter had acted alone, and indeed he predicted "a long and tedious investigation" to determine the shooter's motivations, but many critics have spoken out against Lombardo's initial choice of words. "Lone wolf" is a coded term that is reserved for Caucasian males who commit atrocities that might otherwise be termed domestic terrorism.
That's not a term that's been employed in any of the official responses to the tragedy so far, however. Presidents Obama and Trump have both released statements on the deadly mass shooting; Trump offered his "warmest condolences," while Obama emphasized the repetitive nature of these tragic events. But neither referred to the gunman as a domestic terrorist, or to his actions as domestic terrorism.
This is the largest incident of its kind in Trump's term so far, but President Obama held office during a heart-wrenching number of devastatingly similar shootings. In addition to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, he was also at the helm for the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook which resulted in 28 fatalities, and the San Bernardino shooting of 2015, which claimed the lives of 14.
Until we tackle gun laws, there is no way to prevent tragedies like these from taking place, so Obama likely feels the pain of this new outrage as intensely as any of us. He's given countless statements extending condolences and prayers, and he will likely have to offer many more, even as gun stocks rise in the wake of the mass murder. That is the deepest tragedy of events like this one, that they are simultaneously eminently preventable and seemingly unavoidable, at least with the laws currently in place.
But while we wait for more information, there are ways to show your support for the victims and survivors of Sunday night's shooting in Las Vegas. If you're in the impacted area, you can donate blood to survivors of the tragedy. If you aren't in the area, you can send money to organizations on-site, to make sure it gets to people in need. And you can also be on your guard on social media, to make sure you aren't being sucked into the numerous Las Vegas shooting hoaxes that are already circulating.
Here are some ways you can help the victims in Las Vegas.