The shooter in Las Vegas 64-year old Stephen Paddock is said to be a well-to-do retired accountant who liked to gamble for high stakes. But his motives remain obscure. Had he lost his money due to gambling and was lashing out at the world? Paddock’s live-in girl friend who is currently in Japan at the time is likely the person who can shed most light on the motives. The reports emerging about him have some surprising twists.
Authorities found 23 guns, including a handgun, in the hotel room of the gunman, identified earlier by police as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock. At least some were equipped with scopes, devices that help the shooter identify targets at a range, police said.
They also recovered 19 firearms plus explosives and several thousand rounds of ammunition from Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nevada, a town near the border with Arizona, Joe Lombardo, the Las Vegas metropolitan police department Sheriff, told reporters. He also said police found “electronic devices” but would not describe them.
A brother of the suspect living in central Florida, Eric Paddock, told CBS he was “dumbfounded”. He was “not an avid gun guy at all”, the brother said. “The fact that he had those kind of weapons is just … he has no military background or anything like that.”
That’s a lot of guns. No one acquires that many guns casually. The fact that he managed to transport so many into his hotel room and set up what was essentially a mini-fortress suggests that this was a carefully planned operation. I find it hard to credit his brother’s impression that Paddock was not an “avid gun guy” but the brother lived far away and may not have been aware of recent developments. I have no knowledge of guns myself but the efficient way that he fired those guns and killed and injured so many suggests someone who knew what he was doing.
Seth Meyers says that it is time for politicians to stop the phony talk after the latest of a long line of such tragedies.
One thing that I am glad to see is that when used by politicians, the trite phrase of “thoughts and prayers” is coming in for some ridicule, being seen as utterly useless and a substitute for taking action. It is one thing when friends use that phrase because there is little concrete that they can do. But politicians can do things and I doubt that it provides any comfort for the injured and the loved ones of the dead to have politicians merely send them their ‘thoughts and prayers’ without any follow up. I hope that phrase is mocked out of existence as a precursor to demanding that something be done to prevent these things occurring so frequently. Whenever a politician says that they are sending their ‘thoughts and prayers’, the follow up question should be, “What are you going to do after that?”
Not a criticism, but I think you overestimate how hard they are to operate and perhaps are imagining the killer as more skilled than he was.
The shooter was apparently about 300 metres from his targets. Twenty years ago I was expected to be able reliably to put thirty .223 rounds in succession into a man-sized target from that range, regardless of weather conditions. I am at best an average shot, but I could do it, not because of a huge amount of knowledge, skill or practice, but because the weapon and sight were well-designed. In the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing, you could expect 30 rounds to land inside an area the size of a saucer, and to do so in about a minute.
That was not this guy’s plan. He “knew what he was doing” alright, but what he was doing was spraying bullets indiscriminately into a large crowd. He wasn’t aiming. With the weapons he had, he couldn’t miss. He was using after-market addons to make semi-automatic weapons fire as though they were full-auto. When you do that, you’re not going for precision, but with a dense crowd to aim at from such a close range, you don’t need it.
Literally the only thing that would stop him or even slow him down would be a weapons jam, but in his elevated, protected position, it would be stress-free to simply clear the jam (easily done in a couple of seconds) or even move onto the next ready weapon and continue.
Guns make killing people easy.
In my experience most weapons training focuses on:
(a) making sure you don’t inadvertently damage the weapon or any surrounding property
(b) making sure you don’t inadvertently shoot yourself
(c) making sure you don’t inadvertently shoot someone else.
Comparatively little of it is actual nitty-gritty “this is how you operate the weapon” stuff, because the user interface to a rifle is not complex enough to warrant it. Gun enthusiasts train a lot because they want to get good at it, but you don’t need to be any good at it to spray bullets indiscriminately at a barn door.
sonofrojblake @ 1
I’d agree with your comment on the ease of using semi-automatic and automatic weapons. I’ve used both semi-automatic and bolt-action guns, it’s not difficult. A high degree of skill is not required to massacre people. It seemed from the audio that the shooter was using an automatic rifle, only in America.
“Guns make killing people easy.” Yes, indeed, that’s why most civilised countries don’t let civilians own semi automatics or pump action weapons.
The one and only time I tried to fire a rifle I found it impossible to aim. As in I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t get my head / arms / hands / whatever into the sufficiently contorted position to use the rifle’s sights (it did not have a scope), all I could see was the barrel. Pulling the trigger might be easy (I have no idea (for obvious reasons)), but that is not the only so-called “skill” in using murder machines.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, after the shooting, that “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is a time to unite as a country,” But there never seems to be a time and place to debate gun control as far as these people are concerned. There is a continuous stream of new shootings, more than 300 this year involving 4 victims or more. So there is always a new shooting that makes it “not the time and place”.
Marcus Ranum says
Agreeing with #1 and #2.
Reginald Selkirk says
Gun owners in America now have eight weapons on average -- double what it used to be
That was in 2015. Could be higher by now. Every time there is a mass shooting the gun nuts rush out to buy more guns and ammo, because they think there’s finally going to be a crackdown. Maybe they still believe that muslim Obama is still going to show up and personally take their guns.
Rob Grigjanis says
Reginald Selkirk @6:
Yes, and I’m at a loss as to their reasoning. So, if the government did ban assault rifles (hah!), and sent police to confiscate those that hadn’t been turned in…then what? Do they shoot at the cops? Do they make a last stand to “protect their rights”? Are their guns more important to them than the lives of themselves, their families, and the folks enforcing the law? I guess so. If that’s not insanity, what is?
Marcus Ranum says
They do that because a lot of gun laws get “grandfathered” -- so if you bought a military-style rifle before the ban, you could keep it in pre-ban condition. The gun nuts run out and buy so that if any laws are passed they will be able to have exclusive collectible braggables.
Reginald Selkirk says
Just three percent of adults own half of America’s guns