The Heartbreaking Reality of Route 91 Harvest Festival’s Photo Album

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My favorite thing to do after going to a concert of festival is to look back at the countless pictures and videos that I shot during the shows. Looking through said pics allows me to relive the joy and excitement that I felt during the shows. My camera roll is always filled with pictures of my fellow concert goers, friends, and I basking in the happiness of live music –  and that’s how everyone’s camera roll should look after a music festival.

I’ve spent the last two weeks looking at pictures online from the Route 91 Harvest Festival, and it pained me to know that the camera rolls from this festival won’t be full joy and excitement. Instead, their camera rolls captured the anguish and desperation of people trying to hide from the bullets spraying throughout the crowd.

It’s terrifying to think that a mass shooting like this could happen anywhere. Whether it be an elementary school, a college, a hospital, a nightclub, or a music festival/concert like this, the shooters always seem to target places built on a sense of community and acceptance.

A music festival is largely built on community. Everyone is there for the same reason: to enjoy live music from some of their favorite artists. And if anyone has ever been to a music festival, they know it’s filled with passionate people excited to bond with total strangers over their common love for what they’re listening to. Regardless of the genre of music, the community aspect of festival culture remains the same.

So, it’s all the more heartbreaking and terrifying to hear that the beautiful atmosphere of a country music festival was shattered by about 10 minutes of open gunfire [10 MINUTES – that’s the studio version of Ants Marching played on loop two and a half times] that injured 500 people and killed 58. This tragedy should and does, therefore, resonate with all fans of music.

In the wake of this mass shooting, gun control has again emerged as a hot topic. But those in a position of power that could spark positive change in gun control do not feel as though it is the appropriate time to talk about stricter gun control policies. My question is, if now’s not the time, then when is? After the next mass shooting?

The shooter Stephen Paddock used a bump-fire stock to turn his semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. I can’t fathom why a civilian would need a tool such as this. 23 guns and a plethora of ammunition were found in Paddock’s hotel room. It was reported that since October of 2016, Paddock bought 33 guns. I’d think that this many gun purchases in about a year would raise some suspicion or be monitored. And while I understand people support the right to bear arms for protection, that many guns seems like an unnecessary amount of protection.

It’s scary when people’s response to this tragedy is to humanize the shooter and label him as “normal” or a “country music lover” or a “quiet guy”. But in my opinion, this man is nothing other than a domestic terrorist who incited fear and pain upon helpless, innocent victims. To label him as anything else is to lessen what he did and excuse his behavior.

And if this “normal” “quiet” man was capable of being someone completely different than the people around him knew, that means that there are others out there capable of the same. The shooters from past mass shootings have been labeled as “normal” or “unsuspecting” as well. And if nothing is done to more strictly regulate who can possess a firearm, the next mass shooter will fit the same description.

I understand that people feel the need to buy guns for protection, but why do you need a semi-automatic weapon to defend yourself? Shouldn’t there be more in the way of people such as Paddock getting their hands on a whole arsenal of weapons?

As a country, we can’t let people keep suffering from unnecessary and avoidable gun violence. And as music fans who will continue to find a community in music festivals, we can’t let this intimidate us. We must rise above as the community we’ve created and find a way to combat the domestic terrorism like this that should not be this common in our country, so the camera rolls of future concert goers can stay filled only with the memories of a great show.