Stephen Paddock

The Las Vegas massacre is the worst mass shooting in modern American history, and the shooter is white.

“Lone wolf,” authorities called him earlier this morning.

No – just no.

A parody David Letterman account couldn’t have put it better:

This was an act of domestic terrorism that authorities and certain news outlets refuse to categorize as such. But why isn’t America afraid of white men, even when they are the greatest terrorist threat facing this nation?

Sunday night, Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., fired from the 32nd floor of the Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino into a crowd of 22,000 attending an outdoor country music festival. At least 58 people are dead and over 515 injured. Paddock, who had access to more than 10 automatic assault rifles in his room, took his own life. Nevada is an open carry state that does not require the registration of weapons, does not limit the number of guns a person owns, and allows possession of assault weapons.

Donald Trump–who has referred to the white supremacists in Charlottesville as “very fine people” and has reserved far more anger and culpability for kneeling Black football players and mayors of devastated Puerto Rican cities—has not made a statement on the scourge of white terrorism, and the problem of white men and their access to guns.  The president–who is quick to condemn acts of violence and terror overseas when the perpetrators are apparently brown, Muslim and not white, and called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five and still insists they are guilty–took time out from his busy golf schedule to send condolences to the victims:

 


“We are joined together today in sadness shock and grief,” Trump said in a Monday morning news conference. He called the massacre “an act of pure evil,” the “senseless murder of our fellow citizens” and a “terrible, terrible attack.” The president said he was praying for the victims’ families and the wounded, and that we are all searching for answers that “do not come easily.” He did not call out the shooter as a terrorist, or the massacre as a terrorist act.

This latest tragedy is Las Vegas reminds us of other acts of domestic terror such as the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which left 168 dead and hundreds wounded. The terror attack was the work of Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001, and co-conspirator Terry Nichols, who was sentenced to life in prison.

The June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which had been America’s worst gun massacre until Las Vegas, left 50 dead including the shooter, and dozens wounded.  Authorities and the general public did not treat that incident with kid gloves, as the shooter, Omar Mateen, was Muslim American. In contrast, many were reluctant to paint Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who brutally murdered eight Black people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, as a terrorist.

With white killers, there is a search for motivations. With Black and Brown suspects, no explanation or clarification is necessary, as the perpetrator’s skin color provides sufficient proof of criminality and the need for the public to fear him and everyone who looks like him. Although more details will surface on Paddock his possible motivations and the other surrounding circumstances, we know that white male terrorism is a far greater threat on U.S. soil than ISIS. According to a report from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and The Center for Investigative Reporting, of the 201 domestic terror incidents between 2008 and 2016, nearly 115 were the work of white supremacists, militias and rightwing terror groups, while only 63 were committed by Islamic extremists and 19 by leftwing extremists. The FBI recently announced it is conducting 1,000 investigations of white supremacists and other domestic terrorists who are possibly planning violent acts.

Whenever horrific carnage takes place in the “land of the free” at the hands of a white man, the perpetrator’s family is stunned and the public is shocked and in disbelief. The highly racialized, color-coded narrative of the “terrorist” is rejected in favor of the white-friendly description of the lone wolf, a regular guy who was troubled and had no premediated motives, and perhaps was having a bad day or struggling with mental health challenges, family problems or unemployment. This, in a nation that normalizes white violence, and refuses to make the connection between white supremacy and the gun.

Although America claims to sob and mourn in the midst of a bloodbath, it has learned to tolerate even the massacre of children, as in the case of Sandy Hook elementary School shooting that claimed 20 six- and seven-year olds and six adults.

The Second Amendment has a racially-charged history, as it empowered white men with the gun, to protect against Black and Native American people. “I don’t know if you know the genesis of the right to bear arms,” Danny Glover said at Texas A&M in January 2013. “The Second Amendment comes from the right to protect themselves from slave revolts, and from uprisings by Native Americans. So, a revolt from people who were stolen from their land, or revolt from people whose land was stolen from, that’s what the genesis of the Second Amendment is.”

At the time the Constitution was ratified, Blacks outnumbered whites in many areas of the South, and hundreds of slave rebellions had taken place. Southern states had militias known as slave patrols and required most white men to serve on them. Professor Carl T. Bogus of the Roger Williams University School of Law challenges the notion that the Second Amendment was concerned with an individual right to bear arms or to fight against a tyrannical government. Rather, he argues that right to bear arms had everything to do with militias, and the assurance to Southern states that Congress would not take away their slave patrols.

This is why white men get to keep their guns and have as many as they wish, however great a danger they pose to society. Yet, no one is afraid of them, though they are the predominant purveyors of domestic terrorism. And like Stephen Paddock, they continue to go on rampages and leave a trail of bloodied bodies in their path, and are not called terrorists.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove.