Garrett Looker is a junior journalism major and writes "Finding Beneficence" for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Garrett at email@example.com.
When you hear a gunshot from far away, it sounds like a firework. It reminds you of when you were younger, memories of popcorn, soda and the Fourth of July.
But it’s not the Fourth of July. The early October night’s chill tells you otherwise. There’s no longer any popcorn, and it’s no longer a firework, regardless of what you dream it to be.
You’re no longer a child, and you’re no longer dreaming.
I heard it six or seven times as I sat in the restaurant’s parking lot. As I leaned up against the door of the car, I told myself that they were just fireworks, some drunk kid lighting them off for the hell of it. I looked over the tops of buildings to see that familiar spectacle of red, white and blue shimmering on the horizon, but it never came.
I was asleep the night more than 50 people took their final breath here on Earth. When I woke up to the news, my phone’s screen told me that it was at least 50, most likely more. The number would begin to increase as the hours went on.
In my morning haze, a state of mind where nothing seems to exist quite exactly as it is, I remembered two nights before. There were gunshots near the Village on Ashland. Something had to change, but I knew that it was a slim chance that America would feel the same.
I remembered Orlando. Forty-nine. Again, someone found a way to top the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
That night in Las Vegas, people ran for cover. They held bleeding bodies and cried out as a man from the 32nd floor of a hotel shot rounds of ammunition from his window.
His name was Stephen Paddock, but quite frankly, it doesn’t matter to me. In six months’ time, there will be another name, another background, another source to investigate, another mass shooting to tell the story of America — more bullets and more holes, and no answers.
It’s our greatest problem. We have no answer.
The door’s bell jingles as Kaiti and I walk through. I see a short barreled gun with a drum magazine on the wall. It looks like what you would see a 1930s gangster holding.
I’m out of my element. Of all places to find myself on a Tuesday morning, a gun shop doesn’t come to mind. But 59 people have died, and I wanted to find answers. If anywhere, this would have one.
The man behind the counter came around. He listened patiently as I asked him my questions. He knew what I was there for.
He pointed to a menacing-looking rifle on the wall. He picked it up and squeezed the trigger. “This is what he would have used, I think,” the old man said. It had been more than 40 years since he came home from Vietnam, where he used something like he was holding now. He didn’t say much about it, the war that is. He held his hands and looked down.
I asked about the sound a gun makes. How quickly does the bullet leave the chamber? How fast could he have shot?
“It was an echo trigger, but that’s just my opinion,” he turned back and put the gun down.
While a fully automatic weapon is illegal, he explained, an echo trigger is available across America, in stores like the one I was standing in just then. With each press of the trigger, a bullet is fired. When the shooter releases, a second bullet it sent hurtling towards its target.
The old man explained to me that if Paddock wanted to kill as many people as possible, he would have had to have been good with the trigger.
I wondered what it would have been like to have had that skill, used for nothing but hate and destruction.
The Way Home
Later on, after I would shake the man’s hand and thank him for being so informative and honest, I would drive away from that gun shop thinking about the hate and destruction that seems to take center stage in this country too often.
It’s on us. All of it. There’s nothing we can do to stop what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night. There’s nothing we can do, no question we can ask, to find out why Stephen Paddock attempted to kill as many people as he could. He’s dead, and we’ll wait patiently for the next person to take his place.
Democrats will squabble and fight as Republicans will send their thoughts and prayers into the desert to wither and die.
I’m not calling for regulation. I’m not telling you to hand your firearms over. I’m telling you to stand up.
Stand up for the 59 people who lost their lives. Stand up for the 20 children who were murder at Sandy Hook Elementary. Stand up for those who have been lost, stand up for change.
Change must come. We cannot continue like this. But it won’t start with Washington. It will start with you. It always does.
That’s why we have the power.
Power doesn’t come from wielding a pistol. It doesn’t come from firing seven shots into the air on a Saturday night as you get drunk with friends.
Power comes from putting it down and having the courage to walk away.