Here's a fairly safe bet: Practically everyone knows someone who's been to Las Vegas, which means there are countless sidebars of shock to the horrifying massacre that happened there late Sunday night.

At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a heavily armed gunman began firing on a concert crowd from the 32nd story of a nearby hotel. Audio from the incident sounds like it was recorded in a war zone, with a drum roll of machine gun fire wrapped around terrified screams.

It was, as President Trump noted Monday, an "act of pure evil."

Unfortunately, we've all seen this kind of evil perpetrated before. And you know the debates that are coming — that have already started, in fact — about guns and mass casualties, and what we can or won't do.

But for today, in this space, let's talk about something else: Should we live in fear?

Should we be afraid to attend events that draw large crowds — the Las Vegas concert festival had a reported 22,000 people on hand Sunday night when the gunman started shooting — and represent what experts call soft targets? No matter how much security is on hand, there is not enough to make these places 100 percent safe.

Innumerable soft targets could be found all across this nation literally every day. It could be a mall; it could be a playground; it could be a movie theater — all of which should sound familiar, because massacres have occurred at all those venues.

Is anything safe? Is a sporting event a prime target? How about a Black Friday shopping crowd during the upcoming holiday season?

So, should we live in fear?

The best answer is a very basic observation: Living in fear is not living at all. It means always being afraid of the shadows, being afraid of the people next to you, being afraid of each new day .

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And that isn't living.

While America has had more than its share of gun violence and mass shootings, we've also been quite fortunate, in a sense. We're really a society of soft targets, and yet, there have been little in the way of attacks similar to what transpired in Vegas.

We can thank our law enforcement and overall national security for that. However, even relentless vigilance isn't flawless. It can't be, not if we still want to consider ourselves an open society.

And that's the point, even at this dark hour. We cannot live in terror of what might happen. If we surrender to shadows of what might be, we become something else, something different.

There will be a lot to discuss regarding gun issues in the weeks to come, as there needs to be. It's essential to engage in those discussions freely and vigorously, because that's what open societies are all about. The alternative means we allow the shadows to become menacing fixtures in our lives and we embrace the fear. And that is completely unacceptable.

— Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan

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