If you like graphic reenactments of mass shootings, gun control, and rap, Eminem's latest offering might just be for you.
Just after midnight, the Detroit rapper released a music video for his new song "Darkness" which portrays the 2017 Las Vegas shooting from the perspective of Stephen Paddock, who fatally shot 58 people attending a country music concert from his Mandalay Bay hotel room.
The video cuts between shots of Eminem rapping to the camera and a solitary Paddock, quaffing pills and alcohol before opening fire on the crowd below, and then ultimately killing himself as police burst through the door.
The lyrics transition (less than) seamlessly between a narration of Paddock's final thoughts and overt messages about gun control, with lines like:
Finger on the trigger, but I'm a licensed owner
With no prior convictions, so loss, the sky's the limit
So my supplies infinite, strapped like I'm a soldier
This heavy-handed message is reinforced at the end of the video when we see the rapper watching TV news about gun violence before he words "When will this end? When enough people care" appear on the screen. This is all capped off with an explicit exhortation to register to vote and "help change gun laws in America." The webpage for the music video on Eminimen's website also includes links to a number of gun control organizations.
The message for viewers is that if only they cared as much as Eminem and voted to make gun laws more restrictive, these atrocities would stop happening. Yet, mass shootings don't continue to happen because Americans are fine with them. Mass shootings happen for the same reasons that most types of illegal violence happen, which is that twisted people are not easily deterred by laws and regulations.
And despite what gun controllers might say, there does not exist a handful of common-sense policies we can just adopt to stop these atrocities from reoccurring.
As Eminem's song notes, there was nothing in Paddock's background that would have flagged him as a person who would go on to be a mass murderer. The existence of would-be shooters who do not raise red flags with people in a position to stop them before they kill has led gun control advocates to argue that legislators should limit the types and number of weapons available to people, or pass blanket restrictions on everyone's right to own firearms.
Yet mass shooters are often able to kill a lot of people with simple handguns and shotguns, not just so-called "weapons of war." It's true Paddock had 24 guns with him, some of which were equipped with bump stocks—a hack that increases a weapon's rate of fire at the expense of its accuracy. Yet he was also in a locked hotel room above a dense crowd of unsuspecting people, and he ceased shooting over an hour before police stormed his hotel room. It's entirely possible he could've killed and injured nearly as many people using guns that would remain legal under most of the gun control schemes that were proposed following his rampage.
What's more, the emotionalism and policy action that Eminem says is missing from our reaction to these violent incidents was, in fact, on full display after the Vegas shooting, with the Trump administration issuing a legally dubious ban on bump stocks.
Perhaps what the rap artist wants then is an O'Rourkian mass confiscation of firearms, so that no one can own any weapon of consequence.
That preference presents a whole host of other civil liberties issues that Eminem's fellow rappers seem to grasp much better: firearms are an effective tool for self-defense, particularly against the biggest gang in town, and laws that restrict them create more opportunities for racist police harassment and abuse.
"The right to bear arms is because that's the last form of defense against tyranny. Not to hunt. It's to protect yourself from the police," said rapper Ice-T in a 2012 interview with the New York Sun.
Or as Killer Mike said on Bill Mahar's show in 2018, "African-Americans to align themselves with the gun-law lobby stop and have a conversation with your allies and say this: these laws are going to affect us worse and they are going to affect us first."
America has a constitutionally protected right to gun ownership, and infringing on that right requires infringing on our rights to due process and to not be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. That nuance is absent from Eminem's "Darkness" video.
Music is a powerful thing. Following a mass shooting, it can tell the stories of victims, provide catharsis for those who survive, and maybe even provide an emotional outlet for people otherwise tempted to commit violent acts. But we don't see that in the video for "Darkness." The victims of the Las Vegas shooting get little attention, save for a brief montage of faces toward the end of the video. Focusing on Paddock's own psychodrama and then illustrating that with flashy first-person shots of him blasting away does more to sensationalize than to condemn him.
Here's the full video: