Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando took place 2,300 miles from Las Vegas, but the tragedy no doubt reverberated up and down the Strip.
An armed Islamic terrorist, born in the United States to Afghan parents, entered an Orlando nightclub near closing time and began shooting into the packed crowd, pausing at one point to call 911 and pledge his allegiance to the murderous religious cult known as the Islamic State. The gunman was eventually killed in a shoot-out with police, but not before he killed 49 people inside the club and injured 53 others.
Before friends and relatives of the dead had time to mourn, various factions staked out their usual positions on motivations, guns and other issues. But those squabbles risk obfuscating the larger reality: A coordinated army of radical Islamists with isolated supporters across the globe seeks to murder as many Westerners as they can by any means possible.
The nightclub in Orlando catered to the LGBT community. President Obama acknowledged Monday that the club was likely targeted because of the religious beliefs of Islamic terrorists about homosexuality. But if there’s one thing to be learned from the spate of attacks that now occur with startling and disturbing regularity — in Paris, Brussels, Fort Hood, San Bernardino and elsewhere — it’s that these Islamic religious zealots will kill “infidels” indiscriminately, regardless of political affiliation, gender, ethnic origin or sexual preference.
Which brings us to Las Vegas.
Given the Strip’s vibrant club scene, its diverse draw and 24-hour party cycle, the location, timing and execution of the Orlando attack most certainly heightened fears among local law enforcement and casino officials that the city — a likely symbol of Western decadence to these deranged religious fanatics — could be vulnerable to such an attack.
Las Vegas does have a few natural defenses. Strip nightclubs don’t operate in stand-alone buildings. And the private security operations in place at Strip resorts are first-rate and without peer. Casino interests had little so say in the aftermath of the shooting, but Metro officials acknowledged stepping up the police presence on the Strip.
“We increased our footprint in the resort corridor,” acknowledged Todd Fasulo, an assistant sheriff with Metro.
In the end, preparation and diligence can help erode the influence of randomness and chance. And that’s all anyone can expect because trying to identify those capable of carrying out such attacks — with guns, bombs, knives or whatever else is available — and devising the means to stop them remains among the most pressing challenges of our time.