Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Las Vegas Massacre: A New Argument for Gun Control?

Well, it didn't take long for the anti-gun group start baying at the moon following the recent gun attack at a outside concert, the Route 91 Harvest Festival, in Las Vegas. Before we get into that, let's recap what we know thus far. The shooter, a 64 year old real estate investor and high stakes gambler by the name of Stephan Paddock opened fire from two adjoining rooms that he rented at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel a few days before the attack. The lethal episode played out over approximately horrific ten minutes, with Paddock using two semi automatic rifles which had been converted using a simple-to-use "bump stock" conversion kit, which can be bought almost anywhere guns and/or gun supplies are sold. In addition, the shooter had set up several surveillance cameras and a monitor in order to watch for anyone approaching his rooms. When it was over, some 59 individuals were dead and 527 were wounded, making this the deadliest mass shooting since Wounded Knee in December of 1890.

Paddock had been staying at the hotel for several days prior, while the three day long concert, which covered a 15 acre concrete lot, took place almost directly across from his rooms. During that time, Paddock lugged some ten suitcases full of guns into each room, along the hundreds of rounds of ammo and two shooter platforms. Despite this, no one associated with the hotel noticed anything suspicious: not the cleaning crew who came in to changes sheets or tidy up the room. Not room service which bought up meals. Not other guests. No one apparently saw anything out of the ordinary.

It appears that just moments before the shooting started, Paddock knocked out a window in each room (presumably using a hammer), and from a nearly perfect advantage point, positioned himself on the shooter platform set up in each room and opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd below which was enjoying the last set of the event. In video recordings, you can clearly hear the rattling of the converted rifles with several quick bursts in rapid succession. As people began to be hit, the crowd, which seemed momentarily dumbfounded, realized what was happening and began to disperse. Ironically, while most of the spectators simply dropped their chairs, coolers, blankets and whatever else they brought and ran while others either just stood there and others walked away as bullets sprayed all around them.

Many in the crowd immediately called 911 to report an active shooter (and in several cases, reports of a second shooter came in): some even providing details such as floor location. These individuals maintain that there was shots coming from the second window and they could see two sets of muzzle flashes; they also claim that there was a distinct difference in sound between the guns. One had a duller sound while the other was higher pitched as if it was a different caliber. When the police arrived, their primary attention was moving spectators to safety as quickly as possible (as hard as it is to believe, many were standing completely upright and casually walking away while a few stopped to watch). Some individuals came forward to report that just prior to the concert starting, a female, accompanied by a male, confronted several of the attendees and told them that they were going to die that night. Both individuals were escorted away by security and released.

Nevertheless, officers made their way as cautiously as possible to the 32nd floor. When they reached Paddock's room, they used a standard ram to force entry. However, when they were able to finally burst in, they found Paddock already dead on the floor; the result of an apparent suicide, with a pistol laying just above the right side of his head. A canvas of the room revealed 18 guns, ample ammunition, and two shooter platforms. In addition, they found where Paddock had set up surveillance cameras inside and outside of his rooms, along with monitor so that he could monitor the entire situation. At Paddock's home, which he shared with his live-in girlfriend, authorities found additional firearms---approximately 23---plus explosives. As for his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, she had taken a flight back home to the Philippines. Paddock had also wire transferred over $100,000.00 to her just days before and paid cash (just over $14,000) for a new car for her.

Now, as if this wasn't bad enough, what has happened since is even more intriguing. The terrorist group ISIS, posted on their website that they were responsible for the attack. They added that Paddock had been converted to their brand of extremist Islam. However, Paddock's family and friends refuted that. They said that aside from gambling, Paddock was a quiet unassuming individual with no vices. He wasn't much of a drinker and didn't do drugs. They added that he was unpolitical and didn't even own or like guns. In addition, he didn't have the interest or technical wherewithal to do any type of gun conversation, set up surveillance equipment or knew how to make bombs. Finally, according to family and friends, this type of behavior was completely out of character of the person they knew, and added that he was basically a "boring guy" with a knack for numbers.

In response to their denial of any political leanings, ISIS took the rare step of reposting their claim on their website and added that Paddock had been to the Middle East several times over the last years, where his indoctrination and training was completed (there is some indication that Paddock and possibly his girlfriend took a cruise a year ago which included a port of call in the region). Meanwhile, Paddock's girlfriend has returned to the US for questioning. As an aside, the Philippines have a large, mostly rural, Muslim population are currently engaged in a guerilla war with the government in addition to a long standing Maoist insurgency. Of late, ISIS has become involved in the conflict. I suspect that police, FBI, and ATF officials are going to be very interested in her responses, especially with respect to any changes in his personality, his recent purchases and trips, new acquaintances, unaccounted for absences, and any large money transfers. After all, for someone who didn't like guns, he managed to acquire quite a collection, not to mention rounds of ammo. Plus, one would expect that there some basic arms training as well.

However, at this point, authorities haven't been able to identify any motivation for the shooting, or account for Paddock's ability to haul all these weapons, ammo to his rooms, in ten suitcases, all the way up the 32nd floor (no easy task given the weight) and avoid detection for days, as well as being able to set up surveillance cameras and a monitor. Heck, I can't even seem to take the soap without housekeeping knowing. I suppose that over the next days and perhaps even weeks or months, new information will become available. Of course, given the spin that the corporate controlled media puts on news coverage, we need to take what they with a generous helping of salt.

Meanwhile, as I alluded to at the beginning, gun control advocates haven't missed a beat in pointing out how we need greater gun control, up to and including prohibiting gun ownership (or requiring guns be stored at the police department and checked in and out like you would do books at a library. In addition, there are demands to require that all gun purchases or acquisitions (such as inheritances or bought at yard sales, gun shows or flea markets) regardless of being new or used. Perhaps not unexpectedly, these same individuals are also calling for prohibiting "bumper stocks" and all other gun modification devices, along with kits to build "silencers" or mufflers, along with restricting magazine capacities as well as certain types of ammo. From their perspective, taking away guns are the only way to prevent gun violence. The police have, for years, offered special events to either turn in guns in exchange for coupons or some other prize, as well as occasionally buying the guns back. After the guns are surrendered, they are checked to see if they're stolen or used in a crime, they are destroyed. Of course, common sense will tell you that the bad guys aren't likely to be standing in line to sell back their guns. The end result will be unarmed and mostly defenseless citizens facing off against armed thugs. Sorry, that's not the type of situation I want to be in, nor for any of my family or friends.

Now, while I'm a strong supporter of our 2nd Amendment, which was intended to protect us from the government in the event it become tyrannical, corrupt and/or fails to adhere to the Will of the People (you know, kinda like nowadays). The 2nd Amendment was meant to be our "stay free" card and legal means to remove a corrupt government by force if necessary in the event it tries to ignore or usurp the Constitution or Bill of Rights (again, ditto). Meanwhile, in addition to preserving our nation and self-defense, many people use guns for hunting or target practicing, which is a good thing I think.

However, I do see a possible problem with conversion kits which turn semi-automatics (which are completely legal) to essentially the equivalent to machine guns (which are legal, but very restricted). I mean, do you really need a "machine gun" to shoot rabbits or quail? Ok, perhaps a bad example. But seriously, is that what you need to hunt deer or elk? Maybe you just want it to target practice or simply to have. It might make for a great weapon for home defense, but I'll take a pump shotgun any day. There's nothing like the sound of that slide to change a person's mind. What about "silencers" or mufflers? Is there a reason you don't want the other squirrels not to hear? Maybe it's to help protect you from the gun's noise, but you can buy ear plugs for that. Maybe you fantasize about being an secret agent or double naught assassin cum international person-of-mystery (hey, I'm not judging). Frankly though, I don't know what you'd want a "silencer" or muffler for. Maybe some of you can let me know.

In addition, some of the individuals who are pushing for revised gun control laws are arguing for a cap on the number of guns and amount of ammunition individuals should be able to own, including registering the type and quantity of ammo purchased similar to how guns are bought and registered. Paddock reportedly purchased "thousands" of rounds of ammunition, mostly .308 and .223 calibers, going back to 1982, in addition to the small arsenal he had with him at the hotel and at home. While reports differ, most seem to indicate that Paddock owned between 47 and 53 guns. He brought 23 weapons with him to the hotel. In addition, he had purchased 33 guns over the last 12 months. So, obviously this begs the question---should there be a limit on the number of guns and ammo that an ordinary citizen can own? Or perhaps instead, should there be a cap as to the type of guns or ammunition someone can own? What do you think?

So, again America struggles to understand what drove an otherwise average older rich white guy to want to commit mass murder. Perhaps we'll have a clearer idea as to what motivated Paddock in the days and weeks to come, but it's just as likely that we'll never really know and may be left with suppositions and theories from so-called "experts" (his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, has told authorities that over the past few months, he seemed like he was mentally and physically "deteriorating"). Certainly, despite the tragedies and losses of life, there were many examples of courage too from police officers and ordinary people who were either attending the concert like everyone else or just simply nearby and decided to act. For now though, we just have to become more vigilant of our surroundings, while remembering to scope out possible exit routes wherever we will be spending any length of time, be it a movie, restaurant, a mall, or public event.

How the police zeroed in on the Las Vegas gunman

Who Was Stephen Paddock? The Mystery Of A nondescript 'Numbers Guy'

What guns were used in the Las Vegas shooting?

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