The National Rifle Association headquarters building is located near Washington, DC.

The National Rifle Association headquarters building is located near Washington, DC. dsmoulton/

Many on the left, and only the left, want mainstream media and the US government to label the white male who murdered 59 people and injured 527 others attending a country music event on the Las Vegas Strip in only 9 minutes a terrorist. They want that word to come out of Trump's racist mouth. The feeling is that only Muslims or brown people are called terrorists, while white men like Paddock are almost always described as lone wolves who simply snapped. It's hard to argue with this point of view, but we must.

The information about Paddock is accumulating and taking shape. It appears his brother Eric Paddock was right: The mass killer's motives were probably not political. He was just a normal guy who moved into a room on the 32nd floor of an iconic Las Vegas hotel, built a military-grade sniper's nest with the 23 rifles and ammunition he brought up with 10 suitcases, and, when the moment was right, he began picking off concertgoers with military-grade bullets that can disintegrate bones and leave "exit-wounds the size of grapefruits." (Many of the injured in the massacre will never return to the bodies and lives they once had—this aspect of gun violence is almost never considered; it's always presented as a matter of life and death, not a matter of life and quality of life.)

But words mean something. And the meaning of "terrorist" can only be forced if Paddock was indeed not a member of a right-wing organization or even ISIS (as ISIS falsely claimed). But it's more and more looking like Paddock was a normal guy, and it is important to point this out because in our culture the category of normal also includes the ownership of 50+ guns and several thousand rounds of ammunition. You can own everything you need for total war and be square in our society. This is what we need to expose as madness. How is it possible that a man like Stephen Paddock, a man who bought hundreds of bone-disintegrating bullets, can live "a quiet life" and be a conventional character in an "upscale retirement community." Gun culture made it possible.

What we lose if Paddock is called a terrorist—and he is not a terrorist in the standard sense of that word (politically or religiously motivated)—is the revelation of how his obsession with death machines has been normalized. If we call him a terrorist, the gun culture that made him "the guy next door" is eclipsed by this other, though important (but not as relevant), discourse of policing domestic terrorists with the same vigor as we police Muslim terrorists. Dylann Storm Roof was a terrorist, for example. He had a program. He had a political agenda. (Where is the white supremacist ban, Trump?) Paddock, on the other hand, presents another and much wider discourse: That of gun control.

The GOP and NRA are pushing a large bill called the “Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act,” or SHARE Act, and inside this bill is one called the “Hearing Protection Act" (hunters want their hearing protected from the blast of bullets). Can you see what's happening here? The words "share" and "recreation" are being used to describe weapons and equipment used by assassins. The NRA and GOP are not saying: kill without being heard or murder in silence; they are saying: protect your hearing from the report. This is normalizing language. It means that if Paddock bought a bunch of silencers, he would be just a regular guy. CNN: "No one knows why Paddock morphed from a retired accountant to the deadliest mass murderer in modern US history."