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  • Writer's pictureBrian M. Roberts

Death In Vegas

By Brian Roberts

This morning, like every morning, as I was getting ready for work, I grabbed my cell phone off the charger to check messages, emails, social media updates and news stories. The first thing I saw was a CNN banner announcing that fifty people were murdered in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. I adjusted my glasses and lifted my phone closer to my face to make sure I saw it correctly. Though I knew better intellectually, my first thought was this had to be some kind of bad joke. The unfortunate present state of our world made me think that this had to be a terrorist attack after I realized this was not a bad joke after all. As the story evolved I went from shocked to infuriated because Las Vegas is my hometown.

I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I came into the world at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital (after 42 hours of labor as my mother often likes to remind me), which is now known as University Medical Center and is where the most seriously wounded in last night’s attack are being treated. I graduated from Las Vegas High School and earned my undergraduate degree at UNLV. My uncle attended UNLV when it was Southern Nevada University. My mother worked as a waitress in the Las Vegas Hilton Steakhouse for thirty-eight years, lugged heavy trays and served countless movie stars, athletes and regular folk living it up in Las Vegas. I remember the night she called me when she was serving Muhammad Ali and told me to come by the hotel to meet him. I will never forget that moment, shaking his hand and his kindness to a starstruck fan who grew up with a love for boxing in the boxing capital of the world. I grew up in probably the most unique city in the world and while I look back on my childhood with fondness and a deep sense of longing for days long since passed, I didn’t always appreciate Las Vegas.

Sometime in my late teens I got the hair brained idea that I wanted to leave Las Vegas for a more “metropolitan” city with “regular seasons” and “culture.” Whatever the hell that means. I look back now and think man, I was a dumbshit. I moved to Dallas when I was twenty-six, leaving behind year-round great weather, crystal blue, cloudless skies, low-cost of living and the most diverse entertainment options anywhere for tornadoes, ice in the winter, rain and, worst of all, withering humidity. I never watched the weather channel until I moved to the South because I never had to check what the weather was going to be like in Las Vegas so I could plan my day. But, living in the South, it’s a whole different ball game.  Check the weather. Go out, don’t go out, grab an umbrella. Tornado? Torrential rains? Sunny weather? All possibilities in the same day. And the weather was not the only thing. The first time I went grocery shopping I circled the store twice looking for the alcohol aisle before asking the girl at the register who gave me an odd look and said it was a dry county and I would have to go across the county border to get booze. Are you kidding me? What kind of uncivilized backwater is this? Can we get out of our lease? Needless to say, my desire to live in a “metropolitan” city with “regular seasons” and “culture” quickly evaporated and I moved back to Las Vegas nearly three years after moving to Dallas.

Two years later I moved to Houston to attend law school. I attribute my decision to temporary brain damage but that’s a discussion for another day. Las Vegas opened a law school the same year I decided to go to law school, the William S. Boyd School of Law, but it was not ABA accredited and for that reason I would not be able to practice outside the state of Nevada so I opted to go to an ABA accredited law school in Houston to have more options to practice law. As it turns out, the William S. Boyd School of Law obtained ABA accreditation in time for its first graduating class. Three years after I graduated from South Texas College of Law, not sure what name it goes by these days, and taking a job as an assistant district attorney for Harris County, I sat for the Nevada Bar and passed. For reasons I will not get into here my dream of moving back to Las Vegas to practice law died a slow, merciless death and I remain here in Houston (which, by the way, has the  worst weather and traffic on the planet and is a natural disaster magnet – hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, you pick it) because my new wife and children live here. Were it not for them, I would be in Las Vegas now. No question in my mind.

I feel more than just a hometown connection to Las Vegas. It is part of my heart and my soul. It is in my DNA. It is as much a part of me as a family member and has been a constant leading character in the story of my life. When I moved away I watched CSI not because it was a great show but because it would give me a small glimpse of Vegas every week. One of my favorite movies is Ocean’s 11, again, not because it was worthy of an Academy Award, but because it is a two-hour Vegas getaway. Homesick? You bet. Pathetic? Probably. But this is why what happened last night hurts me and angers me so much.

It is hard to fathom the sociopathic mentality of a person who can senselessly murder 58 people and injure more than five hundred. I am glad he is dead. I am only sorry that he pulled the trigger himself. I hope he felt every centimeter that bullet travelled. I hope he burns in hell for the rest of eternity and I hope he saw that fate as the bullet spun on its path to turning out his lights. He does not deserve to have his name repeated nor his life to be remembered in any way. Whatever good he did in his life, if he ever did anything good, was wiped out when he decided to take out as many people as he could before punching his own ticket. He is a diaper stain on the world and mankind is better without him as a living member. I don’t care what his reasons were for his rampage. I don’t care if his mommy never hugged him and that it made him feel bad. I don’t care if he was mentally ill. I don’t care who he was mad at or why.  He was the typical coward. I have never been able to understand these pathetic wastes of flesh that feel the need to take others with them on their missions to kill themselves. You’re pissed off at the world and want to kill yourself? Go ahead. Put a bullet in your head but leave innocent people who’ve done nothing to you out of your sick plan.

I am tired of seeing so many senseless mass shootings. CNN published a list of deadly shootings in the United States from 1949 to the present, from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Virginia Tech, with last night’s Las Vegas attack topping the list as the deadliest in U.S. history. Any normal, rational human being would have thought that the cold-blooded murder of 20 children in a Connecticut elementary school would have been more than enough to push every politician with even the most feeble conscience to say enough is enough and work to enact effective gun control measures. This is not a political issue but a human issue. I do not advocate eliminating all guns because it is not realistic nor do I advocate denying citizens the right to possess firearms if they are legally eligible. Those who pound the table and scream the NRA slogan, “I’ll give you my gun when you pry  it from my cold, dead hands“, have twisted the Second Amendment to read as an absolute right to possess any gun and as many guns as they want as if it came from God himself as the 11th Commandment and have done much to stifle a national conversation on gun control. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (emphasis added)

Miriam Webster’s dictionary defines “militia” as:

1. a) a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency    b) a body of citizens organized for military service

2. the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service

The Second Amendment was drafted at a time when America was a young country with a scattered population and had to rely upon the citizen soldier at a time when it could not muster a military of sufficient size to present a national defense. Can someone please tell me where the hell it says that Americans have the inalienable right to own assault rifles? Or as many guns as they can carry? Or high-capacity magazines? Constitutional rights are not absolute, Con Law 101. For example, you do not have an unfettered right to say whatever the hell you want under the First Amendment. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater or threaten the president. Try it some time and see what happens if you don’t believe me. Likewise, firearms rights are not and should not be unfettered. If you are a convicted felon you lose your Second Amendment right to possess a firearm. If you are charged with a crime of family violence and the court imposes a protective order, you are not allowed to possess a firearm. These should not be the only restrictions. Nobody needs an AK-47 or an AR-15 to protect their home and certainly not for hunting deer or any other animal except the human animal. They are called assault rifles for a reason, because that is their intended design. Somehow the NRA and the Second Amendment folks have hijacked the meaning and purpose of arming the citizenry. Last I checked, the only active militias in the United States are made up of dim witted wing nuts the government recognizes as potential criminal threats and the officially recognized citizen soldiers are national guardsman. Can someone cite for me a time in the last century when an armed militia – outside the National Guard – was mustered for the security of the United States or any one state for that matter?

It has been reported that police found twenty rifles in the shooter’s Las Vegas hotel room, including AR-15 style assault rifles, at least some of which were fully automatic, along with a cache of ammunition. The sound of rapid fire can be heard on videos taken at the time of the shooting. Anyone who thinks now is not the time to discuss gun control is numb from the neck up. If you’re cool with 20 school children being murdered in their school or 59 innocent people being murdered at a concert as long as nobody infringes on your Second Amendment right, then you are as mentally defective and as devoid of conscience as the people who committed these atrocities. Our national mores are completely out of whack. When Janet Jackson’s boob popped out of her top during the Super Bowl, the FCC – a government agency – launched an investigation before the second half even started. But, you can rest assured the government will not do anything to address gun violence after 59 people were slaughtered. If 20 dead kids doesn’t get the government to act, nothing well. The best the families of the innocents lost to gun violence can expect from the government is lip service, condolences for their loss and inaction to prevent the next mass shooting. Our country deserves better than this. The people we lost deserve better than this.

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