Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2017

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What motivated Las Vegas mass shooter, enabled scope of devastation?

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Allen Breed / Associated Press

In this Feb. 1, 2013, file photo, an employee of North Raleigh Guns demonstrates how a “bump” stock works at the Raleigh, N.C., shop. The gunman who unleashed hundreds of rounds of gunfire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, attached what is called a “bump-stock” to two of his weapons, in effect converting semiautomatic firearms into fully automatic ones.

As residents golfed and took their walks as usual inside the quiet Mesquite neighborhood, police were serving a search warrant on the home of a mass murderer.

The primary residence of 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock contained 19 guns, with another seven found in his Reno home and 23 in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. While reports of the possibility of undiagnosed mental illness surfaced this weekend, Paddock’s motive for firing on the Route 91 Harvest festival — ultimately killing 58 people and wounding hundreds before fatally shooting himself — is unknown.

The 1977 Cal State Northridge graduate was a mail carrier in the ’70s, worked as an Internal Revenue Service Agent in the ’80s, then took a job in defense auditing before becoming a defense contractor, according to the Associated Press. Paddock was twice divorced, a gambler who reportedly spent as much as $10,000 in a day at casinos.

While Paddock didn’t have much contact with neighbors, they described him as a nice, ordinary man. Police say he was living in Mesquite with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who had reportedly worked at the Atlantis Casino in Reno years ago.

After authorities questioned Danley, her attorney released this statement Oct. 4: “I knew Stephen Paddock as a kind, caring, quiet man. He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen.”

The Nevada secretary of state’s office had no past or present record of Paddock as a registered voter. He has no criminal history.

“No affiliation, no religion, no politics. He never cared about any of that stuff,” his brother, Eric Paddock, told reporters.

“There’s absolutely no way I could conceive that my brother would shoot a bunch of people that he didn’t know,” he told CNN, noting that he didn’t know of any mental illness issues. “Something just incredibly wrong happened to my brother.”

Ken Gray, a lecturer at the University of New Haven and former FBI special agent, said mass shootings generally fit nine categories: school shootings, church shootings, jealous rage, family rage, disgruntled employees (current or former), arrest-related shootings, robberies gone bad, terrorism or mental illness.

“Rage and/or depression may be the driving factor. Some of these events may be carried out by psychopaths,” he said, explaining that both personality types can exhibit violent or dangerous behavior. He pointed to the Columbine High School shooters: One was a psychopath, the other was depressive and suicidal. “Many mass shootings end up in suicide,” Gray said.

Some experts say Paddock may have been trying to achieve infamy, though that perspective may change as the investigation unfolds. –Yvonne Gonzalez

KILLER SKIRTED BAN ON FULLY AUTOMATIC WEAPONS

Paddock’s arsenal

Twenty-three guns were found in Stephen Paddock’s room, including a pistol. Twelve were fitted with bump-stock devices — aftermarket products that allow semiautomatic rifles to be fired like fully automatic ones.

President Donald Trump says his administration is considering whether bump-stock devices should be banned. The National Rifle Association has said the devices should be “subject to additional regulations.” And House Speaker Paul Ryan says a ban is “clearly something we need to look into.”

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said “well in excess of several thousand rounds” of unfired ammunition also was found. And according to analysis of video from the incident by the New York Times, Paddock’s rate of fire was 90 shots in 10 seconds.

Fully automatic weapons have been federally banned for civilian use since 1986 with the implementation of the Firearm Owners Protection Act. The bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan, prohibited the sale of machine guns manufactured after the date of enactment of the law.

Machine guns manufactured before that date (May 19, 1986), can still be purchased in some states, including Nevada, but must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The ATF regulations for machine gun ownership are much stricter than those for general gun ownership, and because these guns are no longer produced for civilians, they tend to attract collectors. Further, it’s illegal to make new replacement parts for these weapons — with no exceptions.

But Oct. 1, as rapid barrages of gunfire rang out over the Strip, many people confronted the unthinkable — could that be a fully automatic rifle?

As of press time, authorities had not ruled out the use or presence of a fully automatic weapon in Stephen Paddock’s arsenal. However, they confirmed that bump stocks were used to modify 12 legal semiautomatic rifles — enabling them to unleash ammunition as quickly as a newly manufactured machine gun could.

Neither fully automatic rifles nor such modified semiautomatic rifles had been used in any U.S. mass shooting on record. In Orlando, Fla.; Newtown, Conn.; and Aurora, Colo., the shooters used unmodified semiautomatic weapons.

The general price point for a single, legally obtained and registered machine gun ranges from $10,000 to $50,000. The starting price for semiautomatic rifles, such as AR-15s and AK-47s, can be as low as $600, and bump stocks can cost between $50 and a few hundred dollars.

In the wake of the tragedy, bump stocks — once relatively obscure — have soared into public view, and politicians are responding. On Oct. 4, Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas and the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, called for a ban on bump stocks. The same day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation banning modifications on semiautomatic weapons that allow the weapon to act as a fully automatic. Dozens of other lawmakers in both parties expressed solidarity in their concerns over the devices.

In the long-fought battle between parties staunchly divided on gun control laws, implementing regulations on bump stocks may be one of the first issues with unilateral support. On Oct. 5, the National Rifle Association spoke out against the device, calling for the ATF to “immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.” For the NRA, an organization that unflinchingly opposes any tightening of gun control regulations, this was a rare and telling move.

Further, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, introduced in Congress this year, would reduce restrictions on purchasing gun silencers. Following the shooting, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that the NRA-backed bill was taken off the Congressional schedule for now, though it could soon return. –Emma Cauthorn

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR LAWMAKERS

If you’d like to reach out to lawmakers to express your opinion about restrictions on bump stocks, silencers/suppressors, high-capacity magazines or gun regulation in general:

• Call: Calling your representative is generally considered the most effective option. Call during business hours to speak directly with a staffer, or you can leave a voicemail if prompted. Be clear, concise and personal with your message. Include your full name, which district/city you live in, your exact concerns and the actions you would like to see taken.

• Write a letter: Similar to calling, writing a letter is a more personal method of communication. Start the letter formally, “Dear Senator/Representative …,” and keep your message to a few, concise paragraphs. The more specific information you use, the better.

• Email/social media: Email and social media can be effective methods to speak to politicians, especially when you’re reaching out regularly and/or about a major issue, such as the shooting.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

D.C. office: 202-224-2541; 317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactform

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

D.C. office: 202-225-0600; H-232, The Capitol, Washington, D.C. 20515; speaker.gov/contact

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Las Vegas office: 702-388-6605; 8930 W. Sunset Road, Suite 230, Las Vegas NV 89148

D.C. office: 202-224-6244; 324 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510; heller.senate.gov/public/contact-form

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Las Vegas office: 702-388-5020; 333 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Suite 8016, Las Vegas NV 89101

D.C. office: 202-224-3542; 204 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510; cortezmasto.senate.gov/contact/connect

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

Las Vegas office: 702-220-9823; 495 S. Main St., Third floor, Las Vegas NV 89101

D.C. office: 202-225-5965; 2464 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20515; titus.house.gov/contact/email-me

U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.

Las Vegas office: 702-963-9500; 8872 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 220, Las Vegas NV 89123

D.C. office: 202-225-3252; 413 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; rosen.house.gov/contact/email

U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev.

Las Vegas office: 702-963-9360; 2250 Las Vegas Blvd. North, Suite 500, North Las Vegas 89030

D.C. office: 202-225-9894; 313 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; kihuen.house.gov/contact

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Las Vegas office: 702-486-2500; Grant Sawyer State Office Building, 555 E. Washington Ave., Suite 5100, Las Vegas NV 89101

Carson City office: 775-684-5670; State Capitol Building, 101 N. Carson St., Carson City NV 89701; gov.nv.gov/Contact/Email-the-Governor