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OPINION: Las Vegas shooting hits home in Alaska

October 6th, 2017 | Elise Patkotak Print this article   Email this article  

This was supposed to be my happy column. I've just returned from an amazing family wedding in Denver and am getting ready to join my sister in a trip to Croatia.

Despite the threat of nuclear war with North Korea, because diplomacy just won't work, or the total disdain being shown by the current person sullying the White House to millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico, I thought I'd try to do something upbeat. After all, I'd just watched one of my favorite young men marry the woman of his dreams in one of those weddings that show how weddings should be done — low-key, family-style, lots of laughter, no formalities being pushed by some wedding planner that leaves the bride a nervous wreck on her wedding day. Just fun, family and a sky that actually tossed out a rainbow as the toasts were being made on a condo rooftop where the wedding was held.

But then I came back to Alaska to pack for part two of the trip and the headlines from Las Vegas made me physically sick to my stomach. Apparently we are banning the wrong people. Terrorists in America are not Muslim as much as they are white men with all too easy access to the kinds of weapons that should never be seen outside of an active combat zone.

Then the other shoe dropped. One of the victims who didn't survive was a woman I knew from Barrow. She and her husband had laid down the upstairs floor of my house for me when I moved to Anchorage. While I didn't know her extremely well, I knew her and her family and that brings this horror into my home in a way others have not entered.

She was a good woman, a good mother, a good wife. And now she's dead because she dared to go to a country music concert in a country where guns are worshipped and death by gunfire comes at the hands of people who have no connection to jihad.

At least in Europe, the terrorist attacks are almost always confined to people pushing a form of Islam that, for some reason, depends on terror to make a point. Here in America, we ban people from Muslim countries and ignore the fact that the vast majority of our mass murders are committed by Caucasian men of just about any age.

I've lived in America long enough to know that the following scenario will play out over the next few days. We will have pictures of grieving families burying their dead. We will have politicians publicly bemoaning the easy availability of assault rifles in America. We will have the National Riffle Association announce that if just everyone in that crowd had been armed, they could have somehow miraculously shot a sniper in a room 30 floors away.

And when someone, God forbid, brings up the possibility of any level of sensible gun regulations, the NRA extremists will angrily denounce any limitations on gun ownership in America as unconstitutional.

This scenario plays out after every shooting tragedy we endure, and I, for one, am tired of it. So long as politicians are worried more about their re-election than serving the people who elect them, nothing will change.

The power of the NRA, outsized for its actual numbers, will prevail. For so long as moderate members of the NRA allow the extremists in their organization to run it with unquestioned power, through horror after horror, because they are too complacent or lackadaisical to work for change from within, it will continue.

I once had someone explain to me that when the government's jackbooted thugs — and by that I assume he meant law enforcement or our military — come marching down the street to do God knows what to us, we will be glad that the NRA has semiautomatic weapons to defend us. Quite honestly, I'm at a point where those jackbooted thugs look pretty good in comparison to the white, male American terrorists who wreak carnage in our lives with a monotonously horrifying regularity.

So I am not going to say we need sensible gun laws. I'm not going to argue that the Second Amendment covered militias and that until the 1950s that was how courts interpreted it. No, I'm just going to be sad that America has come to this. We have a man of unspeakable and despicable morals in the White House, we have a Congress that can't agree on whether the night is dark and the day is light, and we have a gun culture that somehow survives massacre after massacre as though it isn't covered in the blood of innocent victims.

Ban terrorists from Muslim majority countries? Sure. Because we don't need outsourced terrorists. We are apparently more than capable of growing and arming our own.

Elise Sereni Patkotak is the author of two memoirs about her life in Alaska, both available at on the Web at


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