Sunday, December 16, 2012

Now, It Hits Home.

Unfortunately, the carnage didn't stop in Connecticut on Friday. Later that evening, it happened here. And it happened in the economic heart of Nevada.

Officers arriving in the main lobby area found a man dead in what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A woman was found shot and taken to University Medical Center in critical condition, where she was pronounced dead.

The woman, Jessica Kenny, 30, worked at the Excalibur concierge desk as a vendor for travel website, which is owned by the Greenspun family, publishers of the Las Vegas Sun. Metro Police Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said she appeared to be the intended target of the shooter, and no one else was injured. [...]

Witnesses on the casino floor said they noticed many distraught people suddenly running for the exits after apparent gunshots. Amid the panic, many poker players were seen abruptly leaving their tables and their personal effects. Police and casino security had taped off an area near the registration desk where the man’s body lay.

Las Vegas resident Zakeyaha Amacker was gambling at the casino near Dick’s Last Resort when she heard the shots, then chaos.

“People just began running,” Amacker said. “It all happened so quickly.”

Trisha Banks, 14, and her sister Danielle Banks, 17, were at the hotel for a holiday cheerleading party with 80 other cheerleaders when they heard four loud gunshots. They ducked under the tables for safety fearing for their lives until the situation was cleared 10 minutes later.

“It’s scary after what happened this morning (in Newtown, Conn.) and then this,” Trisha Banks said. “How can people do this?”

One would think a Strip resort would be among the safest places in the world. There are so many tourists visiting. And there is so much money changing hands on the casino floor.

It increasingly feels like nowhere is safe any more.

And that was not even the end of it. Yesterday, we saw yet another shooting. This time, it happened in the heart of my childhood home of Orange County. And this time, it occurred in the prominent, upscale Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach. Fortunately, no one died there last night because police caught the shooter in time.

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Marcos Gurrola, 42, of Garden Grove, was arrested in the parking lot near the Macy's department store shortly after allegedly firing the shots about 4:30 p.m., said Kathy Lowe, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department. Officers on bike patrol apprehended the man. [...]

The mall was crowded with holiday shoppers at the time of the shooting.

Shopper Dena Nassef said she and another person were walking toward Macy's when people started yelling and running.

"With what happened in Connecticut, we were freaking out," she said. "It was like crazy, people leaving stores." [...]

Shopper Eric Widmer said he was at the Barnes & Noble bookstore when he saw a mother and daughter rush in crying. He said he heard someone scream, "Shooter!"

He said he managed to exit the bookstore and head to Macy's, which he could not leave.

"I thought, 'Great, I get to be scared twice,'" he said. "Lightning strikes twice."

Again, it's now starting to feel like nowhere is safe any more. But sadly, much of the country has felt like this for quite some time. This kind of violence has plagued poor urban neighborhoods for far too long. It seems like far too many of is only notice when this kind of epic violence reaches our "comfort zones".

But now, all our past "comfort zones" have been breached. Nowhere feels safe... Not the mall, not the casino, not the house of worship, not the local "Congress at the Corner" event, and not even the local elementary school. Something has to change.

What has to change is our culture's veneration of violence. And what has to change is the often limited access to vital mental health care. And yes, what has to change is the dangerously easy access to high-powered weapons meant to kill multitudes of people almost instantly. And it doesn't even end there.

There is so much to do to find solutions to this problem. We as a society must start by acknowledging this is a grave problem. Do we really want to live in a place where we can't feel safe anywhere?

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