What the Tragedy In Las Vegas Says About Who America Should Fear — TIME Magazine

Smith is journalist based in Las Vegas.

If you’re looking for a little high-caliber action in Las Vegas, baby, you won’t have to travel far from the Strip to find it.

Locked and loaded, the scantily-clad shooting-range amazon stares down from an outdoor billboard while fondling an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, or something even longer and harder. Careful, big boy, it’s only an advertisement.

As it has with so many American vices and obsessions, Las Vegas years ago found a way to profit off America’s gun fascination by marketing indoor shooting ranges to tourists like so many Second Amendment porno shops and using gun shows to help fill its vast casino-resort convention halls. They’re popular not only with gun enthusiasts, but also with the curious Peeping Tom types visiting from nations not awash in weaponry, gun violence, and senseless gore.

I don’t expect they’ll be padlocked, or even lose much business, in the wake of the slaughter at a Strip country music concert. Las Vegas has at least temporarily become synonymous with record gun violence, but those who want to view it as something other than the house-of-mirrors reflection of modern America are kidding themselves.

No city gets the Puritan scold’s finger as often as Las Vegas, and perhaps none deserves it more, but to reduce retired CPA Stephen Paddock’s grisly assault on innocent people to a green-felt morality play does a disservice to the murdered and maimed and misses a more nuanced story. Beneath its audacious marketing, Las Vegas is an entertainment factory town, and today it weeps and mourns. Although like modern America itself the motto here should be “Whatever the traffic will bear,” for more than 40 million visitors a year it produces a lot of good times.

Our nation’s nihilistic gun obsession and Las Vegas’ own image as the Western World’s hedonistic messaging places large logistical challenges in a place that relies so heavily on big crowds and the feel of footloose freedom. Local police and fire departments prepare endlessly for large-scale terrorist attacks and mass-casualty incidents.