The last thing I remember reading about before I went to sleep Sunday night (early Monday, technically) was the headline of a USA Today article about police officers responding to reports of an active shooter in Las Vegas. I hoped then that the shooter would either kill himself (in the United States, mass shooters are invariably men) or be killed before wounding anyone. I awoke Monday morning to find that the shooter–Stephen Paddock–had killed over 50 people and injured more than 400 (before killing himself) in the greatest mass shooting in modern United States history. Throughout the course of my workday, I was able to keep an eye on the news (we had it on one tv and it was slow for a while) and saw the number of casualties rise to 59 dead and 527 injured. Country music artist Jason Aldean had just taken the stage for day 3 of the Route 91 music festival when the shooting began. An estimated 22,000 concertgoers were in the crowd when the shooting began, which maximized the number of people Paddock could kill.
As with the 272 previous mass shootings this year, there are many questions about the killer and his motives. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, authorities will likely uncover some answers (though not all, since Paddock killed himself). For many people, one of the most important questions–“Why did this happen?”–has an easy answer. One that is apparent even before the dust has settled. It will surprise few people to learn that once again, mental illness is blamed for gun violence.