Thursday, February 21, 2013

From Newtown to Vegas, a Sober Warning

Early this morning, we found out about the horrific Las Vegas Strip shooting and car crash that left 3 dead and 3 seriously injured. Now, we have a few more details on what happened. And we have shocked tourists up and down The Strip.

Police said a confrontation at a Strip resort spilled onto Las Vegas Boulevard, leading to sporadic gunshots being fired from the Range Rover as the vehicles traveled north. The accident occurred near Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, the site of several major casinos, including Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's.

"This doesn't happen where we come from, not on this scale," said Mark Thompson, who was visiting from Manchester, England, with his wife. "We get stabbings, and gang violence, but this is like something out of a movie. Like 'Die Hard' or something."

Police were contacting authorities in three neighboring states about the Range Rover Sport with tinted windows and paper dealer plates that fled the scene about 4:30 a.m.

Metro Police Sgt. John Sheahan said the vehicles were seen pulling onto Las Vegas Boulevard near East Harmon Avenue, near City Center, then heading north. Although authorities initially said gunshots were fired from both the SUV and the Maserati, Sheahan clarified that gunfire came only from the Range Rover.

Police said the Maserati hit the taxi cab, which went up in flames, and the driver and passenger were killed. The male driver of the Maserati also died, and his passenger was shot.

"What is the genesis of this, when did this all start? We don't know yet," Las Vegas Police Sgt. John Sheahan said.

One of the passengers in the Maserati was injured in the shooting and taken to University Medical Center, where he was being interviewed by detectives.

We've especially been seeing many shocked tourists today. They've had a rude awakening of what's actually possible on The Strip.

"This is something we never see in our country, drive-by shootings on the street. This is a completely different world. We're allowed to have guns in Norway, but it's very restrictive. You can't carry guns on the street, and the police don't carry guns. We're not used to this at all."

- Ellen Singh; Oslo, Norway.


"I live near Illinois. You see this kind of thing all the time, and we came here to get away from it. We had a hostess with us who just yesterday had said, 'Oh that kind of thing never happens here.'"

- Selena Pratt; Bettendorf, Iowa. [...]


“This is a little different. These things don’t happen in our country. Nobody carries guns, because it’s quite illegal. But in different countries you see different things. This is a shooting in the street. Does this kind of thing happen all the time? It’s quite — impolite.”

- Jose Antonio Zepeda; Chile.

That's because America has both a high gun ownership rate and a high gun violence rate. Oh, and we also have one of the most permissive sets if gun safety laws (both federally and here in Nevada) in the world. So we can especially understand why foreign tourists would be shocked and horrified by what happened this morning.

Of course, LVCVA is doing its best to downplay this. It doesn't want scared tourists to stay away from Las Vegas. And perhaps this incident alone won't hurt tourism. However, this is not the only recent Strip shooting. And if this level of violence persists, it's hard to see how it doesn't affect Strip tourism. No wonder why LVCVA is trying to downplay this latest outbreak of gun violence.

Mere hours after this latest Las Vegas Strip shooting, Vice President Joe Biden addressed gun safety reform to an audience in Connecticut. Many there are still reeling from the Newtown shootings. And families there and across the country are demanding action from Congress on gun safety.

And Biden particularly had something to say about politicians fearing a "political price to pay" for supporting gun safety reform.

That’s a big change in the conventional wisdom, which has long held that taking on the gun rights lobby is at best risky and at worst suicidal. But Biden’s not the only one saying it — Democrats are gearing up to make support for gun control a key plank in their 2014 platform.

The “standing assumption” today is that “this is kind of the third rail of politics,” Biden said. “That if you take this on, somehow, there will be a severe political price to pay for doing it. Because that’s what’s happened in the past.”

The old rules no longer apply after the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., Biden said, calling inaction on gun control “unacceptable.”

“What I say to my colleagues … I say to you, if you’re concerned about your political survival, you should be concerned about the survival of our children,” he said. “And guess what? I believe the price to be paid politically will be to those who refuse to act, who refuse to step forward. Because America has changed on this issue.”

Even though Biden was speaking in Connecticut, he could have very well used that as a rebuttal to much of what Joe Heck said on the radio and at his town hall on Tuesday. It could also serve as a pep talk to Senators Harry Reid & Dean Heller as they weigh their options on gun safety legislation pending in the Senate. As many Members of Congress keep dragging their feet on gun safety, we're continuing to see these troubling shootings across the country. And as we've been finding out the hard way, Nevada is not immune to this.

Something must change. We're already paying the price for past inaction. Can Nevada and the nation afford any more?

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