A MAN WAS SHOT on the Las Vegas strip recently, right in front of the Monte Carlo hotel.
I know this because a beefy, blazered hotel security guy was blocking the sidewalk. “Crime scene,” he said, politely but firmly sending pedestrians — including us — off in another direction.
We were there because my wife had just celebrated her birthday by running the Las Vegas half-marathon. We booked the trip well before the Oct. 1 shooting outside the Mandalay Bay resort, where 58 were killed and more than 500 wounded by a single gunman firing from the 32nd floor.
Mandalay Bay, at the southern end of the strip, feels a bit isolated from the non-stop circus to its north now. MGM Resorts, which owns Mandalay Bay, laid off or cut the hours of hundreds of its 7,400 employees there due to a drop in business.
Fear isn’t necessarily the cause of the decline. It’s the grim shadow of the horror hanging over a place that’s supposed to be all about sunshine and escapism. It was the latter reality, not fright, that had some of the Vegas runners saying they would have stayed home had their trips not already been booked.
That said, there was a vague sense of relief when the Rock ’n’ Roll marathon went off without incident. It was both reassuring and disturbing to see police armed with assault rifles patrolling the course as a big police helicopter rumbled low and slow overhead. Chatter among the runners stopped as they passed Mandalay Bay.
It wasn’t like the defiant, we’re-not-going-to-let-the-terrorists-win response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Vegas Strong T-shirts might echo Boston, but the message rings hollow when nothing is done to stop the mass shootings plaguing the U.S. — 26 dead in that church in Texas, another six in California. The mobile billboards that cruise the Las Vegas strip, encouraging tourists to experience the thrill of firing an AK-47, look obscene now.
Contrast that last image to another from the strip: The tourists staggering down the sidewalk clutching metre-long margaritas bumped up against hard-hatted construction workers installing thick steel posts. The bollards are the first of 8,000 being planted as safety barriers for pedestrians, a reaction to a December 2015 incident in which a woman plowed her car into 37 people, killing one. America will protect you against a deranged driver, but gun culture remains safe.
After the Texas and California shootings, much was made of the fact that the gunmen were also deranged, as though this were the issue. No, it’s not. Other countries, including ours, have psychotic people, too. What they don’t have is easy access to high-capacity firearms. Legal or not, the killers in Texas, California and Las Vegas had no problem getting guns.
By comparison to those massacres, the shooting outside the Monte Carlo was relatively minor, particularly with the Mandalay Bay clearly visible just a couple of blocks away. A drug deal gone bad, the cops said, and it looked like the victim would live. It barely made the news, earning a perfunctory five paragraphs in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
By comparison, the line story in the same day’s Times Colonist was about a three-dog limit in regional parks. Really. Dogs in parks, top of page one. That’s as contentious as it gets in Greater Victoria, where statistics show the violent crime rate has plunged 42 per cent since 1998.
And that finally brings us to the point: We should be grateful for where we live.
This isn’t to disparage Las Vegas or to discourage anyone from going there, particularly not now when it’s down. Let’s hope that city rebounds.
Nor is it to turn a blind eye to the pockets of dysfunction here at home. We had a stabbing on Johnson Street recently.
But I’m grateful to live in a country where mass shootings are not the new normal, in a community where it’s not deemed necessary to have armed police on city buses.
Lost in our minor moanings, we sometimes take leafy, lovely Victoria for granted.
Sometimes it takes a trip away to bring that home.
© Copyright Times Colonist
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloops lad who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.