Security at Music Events in the Wake of the Las Vegas Shootings
STEPHEN Paddock is a name few of us…
IN THIS PHOTO: Stephen Paddock/PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Paddock/WOFL
will forget in a hurry. Without provocation or any clear motif; the supposed gentle and quiet retired American opened fire at a Country music in Las Vegas – killing fifty-eight gig-goers before taking his own life. He wounded hundreds more and scarred everyone who would have attended that night. The chronology of the event – and the fall-out – has raised question of security at big events. If one wants to examine moral hierarchy and where Paddock falls in comparison to a terrorist; it raises a lot of questions and opens debate. Instantly, when the deaths were reported, there was that clear distinction between his actions and that of a terrorist. It is, obviously, a case of domestic terrorism but, as he was a retired gentleman not attacking the government, newspaper headlines were a lot less judgemental and accusatory. If this were a Muslim attacker who implanted himself at the event and blew up dozens of people; there would be few surprises and people labelling him a terrorist. That would be a fair assessment but there is little difference between a white, non-terrorist killing the same number of people. It doesn’t matter whether the attacker was a nice guy who snapped: it makes his crimes no less horrifying and atrocious.
IN THIS PHOTO: Police near Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, following the attack/PHOTO CREDIT: NBC News
Rather than provide Paddock the oxygen of publicity; it is better to look at gun control and the way we police music events. I am not suggesting we need to barricade music events and search every single human being within a five-mile radius. It is hard to say why Paddock took it upon himself to meticulously plan the spree and ensure he could not be brought to justice. It was not someone reacting in the moment and losing control: this was a detailed and thorough attack intended to eradicate as much life as his ammunition would allow – or until the Las Vegas Police Department got to his room. Who knows how many he could have killed and maimed if they had arrived later? Maybe there would have been fewer deaths had that reacted quicker? The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that anyone has the right the bear arms – that right shall not be infringed. It is clear the centuries-old Constitution needs to be evaluated and discussed. It is no good every President condemning a gun attack and saying we need to see fewer incidents – then not doing anything proactive. The gun lobbyists will always revolt and the illogical sentiments of gun owners – give up their arms and they are vulnerable to attacks; defenceless to defend themselves – has the loudest voice.
The American police need to armed, to an extent, but that throws up issues of bias and impartiality. Why are they allowed guns and everyday citizens prohibited?! It gets tangled and litigious before we even delve into the logistics and legalities. The tragedy in Las Vegas follows from the bombing at the Manchester Arena. Many might say they are isolated events and not going to be repeated. There have been enough near-misses and close-calls to worry the average music-goer. Many would say music and the triumphalism of the fans means sounds and a common bond is more powerful than hate and terrorism – this is true, I’ll confess. It does not matter how steel-hearted and lion-like fans are: if there are insufficient security measures then future attacks can happen. I know terrorism affects more areas/locales away from music – and there are domestic incidents where many are killed – and a few incidents a year does not an epidemic make. Nobody could have seen Manchester occur but following the massacre at the Bataclan back in 2015; there should have been stringent measures put in place at ALL music venues around the world. Things have got tighter recently but I am concerned things need to get even more proactive and visible.
IN THIS PHOTO: The Bataclan, Paris
A full-on police presence might seem alarming and off-putting for people who want to relax and enjoy music. It is a hard line to draw but we cannot be naïve and relaxed when it comes to the threat of terrorism and security. The attack in Las Vegas has highlighted how attacks are not reserved to terrorists of Muslim origin. I am attending a big concert in November and, whilst I am looking forward to it, always find myself wondering whether a rogue element can enter the arena and create chaos. It is paranoia but one can be forgiven for being overly-vigilant during these times. Does extra security and armed police create a deterrent or does it provide psychological unrest - and exacerbate nerves among those trying to filter out the possibility of violence? Again; this is a contentious debate but one that needs to be brought to the table. Paddock’s Las Vegas attack was hard to predict because we profile attackers and, given the most recent terrorist attacks, have a view of the nationalities and religions of those who perpetrate such deed. Paddock was acting alone and not part of a terrorist cell. The U.S. security services will be called into questions and asked why this man was allowed to amass an arsenal and fire at people without any warning and surveillance.
PHOTO CREDIT: TripAdvisor
Paddock positioned himself high above the crowds in a hotel room (at Mandalay Bay) and there was no way he could have been stopped instantly. The fact he managed to get all those guns into his room and fashion a perfect environment to kill people returns to my (slightly fatuous) desire for widespread cordoning. We talk about massacres at music events because of the sheer scale of loss. A lot of fear is percolating in the music industry and, if artists and fans are reluctant about attending events, that compromises the integrity and future of music itself. On street-level, there is no way of realistic preventing all terrorist attacks. The latest vehicular-related attack in London, whilst not terrorist-related, did raise issues whether we need to secure the city better and how far we need to place measures. Attacks are more utilitarian and simplistic than they used to: homemade devices can be easily fashioned and many people are simply driving vehicles straight at people. It is easy enough to prevent any attacks we saw in Las Vegas. That was so devastating because of the proximity of the event and the hotel Paddock stationed himself in. Here, there are few big arenas where an attacker can prop themselves above. It seems extreme but having armed police at each event would create more security than fear.
IN THIS PHOTO: Scenes outside the Manchester Arena following the attacks
If they were positioned sporadically – and any nearby hotels/vantage points monitored – that would secure the peripheries. Every gig-goer needs their person searched so any explosive devices and weapons can be detected. There would be few other ways a would-be attacker could carry out any violence. There is little we can do about our roads and public transport but, at the very least, venues need to go further with their security in light of the attacks we have witnessed in the past year. All of us live in an extreme world where violence and terrorism is becoming more familiar and common than ever before. It is not foolhardy to be over-protective if it means any potential attackers are deterred from striking. Whatever the solution is; too many people are fearful of stepping into venues and seeing the artists they love. It is not right we live in a time when the worst elements of society can claim lives and carry out their evil agenda. Perhaps there is no way to completely stop the problem but we can do something to stem the flow. I worry there will be another attack before the end of this year and, with security being at the level it is, no way of saying which concert it will take place at.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Press Association
Most of the attacks happen at Rock and Pop concerts – where more people attend – and I wonder whether it is the ethics and message these artists are sending out that attracts a violent response. Of course, stopping them from performing is insane but there needs to be increased police at these kinds of shows. Whether we are under-resourced or stretched; it is a matter of national security and we, here, do not have the insane levels of gun violence as the U.S. The overriding spirit of togetherness and defiance takes a lot of the fear away. People are not going to be put off by attacks but, at the same time, we need to safeguard those who do go to concerts. For now, and as we carry on with our business, there needs to be more debate in parliament. I fear the current regime is not aware or that bothered about music event security but they should be. Attacks might be rare but they are not extinct. The fact they do happen should raise enough alarm bells. Our biggest music events should not be defined by fear and bloodshed: they need to be about the music, spirit and memories created by the artists we go and see. That happens at the majority of events but changes need to happen. When they do, and there is a more consistent security contingency in place; this means we can all…
PHOTO CREDIT: Shutterstock/KR MEDIA Productions
REST a lot easier