Very little is known thus far about the motivations of Stephen Paddock, the alleged mass-shooter who opened fire on concert attendees outside the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas last night. And though many military experts have listened carefully to the audio footage of the attack, and believe that fully-automatic (and therefore illegal) weapons were used to carry it out, we don’t know that for sure either.
What we do know is that while the first responders on the ground in Vegas demonstrated commendable bravery and professionalism in attending to victims of the violence, many of social-media’s first responders (on both sides of the political aisle) were unwilling to wait for more information to be released, before using this horrific event as an opportunity to advance the political themes of their choosing.
Sadly, this kind of thing has become commonplace in the wake of disasters and the loss of human life. People are often more desperate for a narrative than they are facts.
To their credit, some of the usual suspects in the media got it right this time. Political commentator and liberal activist Sally Kohn, who has found herself on the wrong side of poor public assumptions on a number of occasions, tweeted this morning: “Look we don’t know yet what motivated the shooter in Vegas. If it *was* political views/ideology, then it is terrorism. By definition. But we should wait for facts. As we should with *any* shooter regardless of race or religion.”
Good for Sally.
A number of our nation’s current and former leaders struck a responsible tone as well. President Trump, somber and uncharacteristically unassuming in his demeanor, stuck to the facts and delivered a focused, unifying speech to the nation. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tweeted similar condolences.
Hillary Clinton, unfortunately, chose the other route.
After the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate began her morning by tweeting a thoughtful message of sympathy for the victims, she quickly pounced on the political optics, tweeting: “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
Minutes later, she added, “Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”
In other words, we should put politics aside by coming together to wage a political attack on the NRA.
Again, Clinton put out these statements at a time when she knew absolutely nothing about what kind of weapons were used by the shooter, whether or not those weapons were legal or illegal, or whether or not those weapons were obtained legally or illegally. She also hadn’t a clue as to what kind of existing or proposed gun law (if any) could have possibly prevented this attack, or whether or not the NRA even opposes or would oppose such a law.
All Clinton knew was that she was handed a political opportunity, in the form of mass casualties (some still fighting for their lives), and she simply couldn’t let that opportunity go to waste.
Let’s do what she couldn’t: grieve for now, pray for the victims and their families, wait for the rest of the story to come out, and then determine what we can do to try and stop something like this from happening in the future.