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The af­ter­math of a mass killing is the ideal time to talk about gun con­trol.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - Joanne Black

It’s been an­other har­row­ing week in the United States, as the ­hor­ren­dous ex­tent of the Las Vegas mas­sacre be­came known. The roll call of death mounted by the hour: a nurse from Ten­nessee was at the con­cert with his sur­geon wife; a me­chanic’s ap­pren­tice from Bri­tish Columbia was an only child. Each bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tail seemed to make the toll heav­ier and more real.

The vic­tims were chil­dren’s par­ents and par­ents’ chil­dren. One sur­vivor posted from the scene on Face­book that a stranger, whom he named, had just died in his arms. Proper process – the knock at the door by trained po­lice of­fi­cers bear­ing bad news – is one more ca­su­alty of may­hem in an age of so­cial me­dia.

The White House pro­nounce­ment the day after the shoot­ings that it was too soon to talk about gun con­trol was de­rided by those who thought there was no bet­ter day than when the blood of vic­tims was still wet on the ground. After all, that is the essence of the de­bate – the right to carry guns ver­sus the right to come home from a con­cert.

The fact that the per­pe­tra­tor was nei­ther African-Amer­i­can nor

Mus­lim was greeted with a sense of re­lief, and it means there is no racial ­dis­trac­tion to di­vert at­ten­tion from ­dis­cus­sion about gun con­trol. It may be too soon for the White House, but the rest of the coun­try be­gan while the bul­lets were still be­ing fired. The next morn­ing, Pres­i­dent Donald Trump tweeted his “warm­est con­do­lences”. Nat­u­rally.

It was a friend’s ca­sual men­tion that a ­neigh­bour­hood near mine once lost power for five days after a hur­ri­cane that made me think that per­haps the base­ment of our rented house was not, after all, sim­ply bonus ac­com­mo­da­tion for vis­i­tors. It prompted me to look at one of those web­sites that, as soon as you see it, you wish you had not. It is not as if I wasn’t warned: the map is called “Find Your Per­ils”. You in­sert your state and up comes ev­ery peril with a mod­er­ate to high risk of oc­cur­ring based on data com­piled by sen­si­ble and rep­utable agen­cies – not by Rus­sian-backed Twit­ter ac­counts.

The map could prof­itably be spon­sored by a drug com­pany that man­u­fac­tures sleep­ing pills, be­cause once you’ve seen it, you won’t be hav­ing an­other good night’s sleep. Here in Mary­land, our risks, in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der, are ex­treme heat, floods, ­hur­ri­canes, se­vere win­ter weather, thun­der­storms and tor­na­does. On the bright side, we are not deemed at risk from earth­quakes, hail, tsunamis or wild­fires.

Bears and al­li­ga­tors, per­ilous in var­i­ous places, do not make the cut, I sup­pose be­cause they are risks only to in­di­vid­u­als and not whole ­neigh­bour­hoods – un­less they roam in very hungry fam­i­lies.

Our base­ment is not pre­pared as a shel­ter. It’s where we store our Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions, so we could make it fes­tive if we were stuck there, though we might not be in the mood for gold tin­sel and plas­tic rein­deer, es­pe­cially since De­cem­ber is not hur­ri­cane sea­son and any­way we might have no power for fairy lights. Our suit­cases are also in the base­ment, which would be handy for pack­ing to evac­u­ate, ex­cept that if the house was torn apart in a hur­ri­cane, all we would have to pack would be dec­o­ra­tions.

Wa­ter, al­co­hol, san­i­tary sup­plies and choco­late are now on my shop­ping list as emer­gency pro­vi­sions. The prob­lem I used to find in Welling­ton, and I ex­pect it will be no dif­fer­ent here, is that in our house any Fri­day night with­out choco­late and al­co­hol is an ­emer­gency, and I know where they are hid­den.

Hand­ily, Amer­i­can bread stays white, soft and mould-free for months, which makes it ideal to keep in the base­ment.

To judge by the ­suf­fer­ing we are hear­ing about in the Caribbean, pass­ports and open tick­ets out of the coun­try could be the most use­ful items of all.

One sur­vivor posted on Face­book that a stranger had just died in his arms.

Hell hole: the Las Vegas killer shot from win­dows he had smashed in his ho­tel suite.

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