In Las Vegas, they tell us, the number of the dead has now reached 59 and the number of wounded more than 500. But these are merely fractions. Every victim was attached at the heart to parents and children, to sisters and brothers.
The numbers of these victims are not yet fully counted, though their lives as they once knew them have now ended.
In Baltimore, we know about such things. We are authorities in the business of homicide. We are experts, connoisseurs, extended family. You can trace our blood lines all over our streets.
This madman in Las Vegas killed 59 (including himself) in a once-in-a-lifetime spree. But in Baltimore, we don’t do it once in a lifetime, we kill such numbers every couple of months.
We just space it out a little.
Go ahead, do the math. As this is written, there have been 271 homicides this year in the city of Baltimore. That’s 30 per month, 60 every two months. Las Vegas had a very bad night. But Baltimore catches up over two months – every two months, you can clock it on your calendar.
So where we do we go now? In this, too, we are practiced, both as a nation and a city. We’ll have our customary moment of silence in the U.S. Congress, and maybe on the floor of the City Council, if they even notice. Flags will be lowered to half-staff, eulogies delivered.
And then we’ll go back to business as usual.
In Baltimore, that means back to the usual business – and let’s not keep deluding ourselves about this. The city as a whole is not on fire. But certain neighborhoods are. They’re the neighborhoods where the poverty is intractable, where homes have been abandoned and families utterly fractured, while the drug dealers commandeer entire blocks.
This slob in Las Vegas didn’t even have these excuses. He had money, he had family – and he had access to any kind of weapons he wanted.
In Washington, it also means back to business as usual. The NRA will keep spreading money around on Capitol Hill. This is known as “silence money.” Keep quiet about gun control or we come after you at election time. It’s a protection racket. Politicians get protected, while everybody else ducks for cover.
Of course, the politicians get very pious about it. This is not the time to talk about gun control, they’ll tell us. In the aftermath of such a terrible tragedy, they’ll say, this is not the time to get into politics.
Oh, no? Then when is that time? When do we have an honest conversation about America’s killing fields? And not just about the gunplay, but about the thing that keeps an entire nation from coming to its senses – the obscene money that flows from the gun lobby to the legislators, and keeps them from voting their conscience, for common sense gun laws and standing up for ordinary citizens who keep falling down from the continuing gunfire.
Top photo: Police and rescue personnel at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave after a shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Oct. 2, 2017. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” has just been re-issued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.
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