One of my favorite times of day in Las Vegas is at dawn, when the city seems underwater in soft blue light and everything rests calmly. But often forgotten in the shadows of the neon lights lives a thriving, vibrant and extraordinarily strong community, which recently saw its darkest day.
On Sunday, Oct. 1, my hometown was violated in a calculated attack on concertgoers that took the lives of 58 beloved people, left more than 500 physically injured and countless others affected. Today, I appeal to you as a citizen of Las Vegas. As a nation, we have a responsibility to those who lost their lives on that Sunday night. However, my stake in this fight is ever heightened by the trauma inflicted on my hometown.
No one has the right to be armed with a modified assault rifle, and yet, my community suffered the consequences. Given the lack of oversight on these modifications, it could only be expected that someone with intent to commit a massive act of violence would capitalize on their accessibility. We cannot live in a state of fear and be dissuaded from public events. Therefore, we must address the root of the problem and prevent modification to firearms which allow them to fire fully-automatic; such as the bump-fire stock. With these modifications, shootings like the one in my own community could be possible anywhere.
In an America where the proclaimed right to own deadly weapons supersedes the human right to life, the reality is this could happen in any town, to anyone, at any time. As I believe my community did not see this unspeakable violence coming, the threat now looms in any public place. We cannot live in a society of fear. We must address the problem at the core.
We must take measures like more oversight, accountability and less gun lobbyist money in Congress to prevent future massacres from happening. Most importantly, we must come to realize that our political divisions have not saved lives. Our lawmakers hold the power to change. We must start demanding for politicians to end the soapbox speeches and the endorsements and start putting the lives of their constituents first.
There are no words that can capture the fear, sadness and trauma that results from the largest mass shooting in modern U.S history happening in your backyard. As a tightly-knit community, we all knew someone there, someone who got out, someone who didn’t.
As someone who was born and raised in this desert town, witnessing the coming together of our community during this time has been overwhelmingly special. The love received from our community as well as from around the world has flooded my home again with sunshine. Even in our darkest moments, human kindness shines more brightly than ever.
Through this horrific event though, the world has been able to witness the rarely acknowledged people of Las Vegas, Nev. They’ve seen the outpouring of love and community in the hours long blood donation lines, the countless bags of food delivered to our brave law enforcement, the hotels projecting the words Vegas Strong all down The Strip and the millions of dollars given to victims and victims’ families.
These lives, and all lives lost to mass shootings, were taken senselessly, and the anger and sadness over this comes in unending waves. Las Vegas, my home, will never be the same as we forever mourn the 58 friends and visitors murdered on that concert floor. But I have the strongest hope that we will prevail as a society.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paraphrased “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” As surely as the desert sun rising over the mountains every morning to drench the Las Vegas Valley with new light, our love for each other will hold us together and make us stronger.
Featured Photo: The gunman fired from the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of concert goers. Chelsea Mathews, a Las Vegas native, urges action. MARIO ORTIZ / WIKIPEDIA