VOA_Vegas_vigil

Like many Americans, we at the firm were shocked, mortified, and deeply saddened by the horrific events that took place in Las Vegas on Sunday. When events transpire that illustrate man’s inhumanity to man on a level such as this, we have felt the need to temporarily cease our activities, gather in a communal forum, express emotions, reconcile answers, dispel myths from facts, and try to grasp how we can use our words, actions, thoughts, and careers to elevate the level of consciousness among ourselves, our families, our community, and our nation.

At times like these it seems difficult to avoid a descent into a pessimistic outlook. We fight for individuals, families, victims of all kinds, but at our core, we fight against the impulses that destroy life and oppress the weakest among us, and our core mission is to attack, and hopefully destroy, the walls that separate us as humans, expose the institutional lies that propagate the exploitation of the weak, and affirm that inner divinity in each of us that is perpetually ill at ease with injustice.

If even one life is needlessly taken, we see it as a stain on the invisible fabric that holds us together. As lawyers we dissect the events that cause a preventable death with the meticulousness and passion attendant to the souls of advocates, always asking ourselves how this could have happened, and how it can be prevented, while constantly remembering the dark, unspoken, and often inarticulable suffering borne by a family trying to cope with the ordeal of losing a loved one. Families that have experienced suffering on such a profound level are never the same. A survivor wants most for some action to be taken that would serve to the prevent future suffering, hoping to honor their loved one by somehow sparing another family from their fate. When a death is preventable, this can be a driving force that permanently alters the trajectory of a survivor’s life.

When a single individual exposes hundreds of innocents to death with a prearranged and carefully selected arsenal of multiple high powered rifles, we cannot reconcile this act as the work of a single isolated, twisted mind, even though he may have acted alone in the eyes of the law, even though forensic detectives may never uncover a motive that will pass legal muster, and even though there may never be a group of people, or even another single individual, that will be found liable for breaking any law. There is more going on. This is happening too often. This does not happen in other societies. We have become used to this as a nation, and until we change our consciousness, it is illogical for us to hope that this will stop. The shooter’s actions are not divorced from the collective historical consciousness of our nation. Whatever macabre record was set last week cannot serve to label this as an isolated occurrence. The killer was an American citizen, educated and molded, for better or for worse, on American soil.

Far from being an isolated occurrence in America, this phenomena has become brutally forged into our national identity. It did not happen overnight. It is not illogical to conclude that even our greatest sociopaths must be exposed to knowledge of similar high profile crimes, and it is not illogical to further conclude that they are informed by, dream about, and take their cues from prior similar events, and accordingly devise their premeditated homicidal assaults with a planning and ambition that is not divorced from a frame of reference informed by prior events.

As Americans, if we say this is an isolated occurrence, we will not prevail. If we distance this event from our nation’s history by calling this shooter a “lone wolf”, we will not prevail. If we seek answers in the greater militarization of our police forces and increased arming of our citizenry, we will not prevail. We must direct our consciousness towards the prevention of future catastrophes, because, logically speaking, once a planned, premeditated event such as this is set in motion, even our finest armed forces can only hope to mitigate the scope of the tragedy.

We submit that to honor the lives of the fallen we must direct our national consciousness to the phenomena of gun violence with the singular focus of preventing the future deaths of our countrymen. To do this, we must first accept that, as a nation, we have a problem. This problem should be viewed as a public health crisis, not unlike heart disease, drug or alcohol addiction, or polio. Like any public health crisis, this phenomena must have identifiable origins, patterns, and contextual cues that should be studied. But as with the case of drug addiction or any other disease, the first step is the formal, public, acknowledgment of a problem. We must acknowledge the existence of a crisis before we can address it. We have made great strides as a nation when we have acknowledged and taken responsibility for threats to our public safety. Laws ensuring automobile safety, the structural integrity of our nation’s infrastructure during earthquakes, and fire prevention have saved countless lives, and were all borne out of the noble recognition that as a nation we should take action to prevent death when it is preventable. To the extent that our elected lawmakers remain wilfully inactive in the face of the public health crisis caused by gun violence, we will not prevail.