Nearly a week after Stephen Paddock, opened fire on concert goers in Las Vegas resulting in the deaths of 58 people, questions continue to swirl around the worst mass shooting in recent American history.
How was one man able to amass so much arsenal?
America is home to some of the deadliest mass shootings in history. It has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany. It is home to 4.4% of the global population, however, nearly half of all civilian owned guns are in the US.
For a detailed understanding of gun control laws as well as a historic view of some of the worst mass shootings to have occurred in the US, click here.
64-year-old Stephen Paddock lived in Nevada about 80 miles northeast to Vegas. An avid gambler, he lives in a retirement community with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley. Weeks before the shooting, Paddock bought Danley a ticket to visit her family in Philippines. He also transferred $100,000 to her to buy a home for her family in the country. Danley told investigators that she had no idea that her partner was contemplating any crime and she had thought that he was trying to break up the relationship when he sent her away.
Paddock’s family describe him as a quiet man who lived an unassuming life. His brother said that he did not hold any extreme political views nor did he display any radicalized behavior. His father had been a criminal bank robber. However, Paddock’s brother has noted that the siblings had never been in touch with their father. His brother added, “There are no types of clues, that's the problem. This is what everybody is scared about right now. If Steve could do this, we are all in deep (expletive) because there's nothing there. I hope to hell that they find when they do the autopsy that there's a tumor in his head or something because if they don't, we're all in trouble.”
In a moment of pure terror, Paddock opened fire from the from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino onto 22,000 concert goers. He modified some of his weapons with bump stock devices before opening fire. He was able to break two of his suite's windows with a hammer and fired hundreds of rifle rounds. His bullets traveled 2,000 feet (610 meters).
A bump stock converts semiautomatic weapons into automatic weapons. The purchase of automatic weapons is mostly banned in the US. The US Congress enacted the prohibition in 1986. A semi-automatic weapon fires a single bullet with each pull of the trigger. However, an automatic fires for as long as you compress the trigger. Thus, it is far more dangerous. Even the nation’s all-powerful National Rifle Association has signaled its willingness to impose rules on the purchase of a bump stock in the aftermath of the shooting.
Paddock was able to shoot several hundred rounds for close to 9 minutes. There were a total of 489 non fatal injuries and 58 deaths. By the time, law enforcement was able to force its way into the hotel room, Paddock had killed himself with a gunshot.
However, the law enforcement still has not been able to decipher a motive. The Las Vegas claim that they have looked into nearly 1,000 leads to find a motive for the act. "We have looked at everything, literally, to include the suspect's personal life, any political affiliation, his social behaviors, economic situation, and any potential radicalization that so many have claimed," said Kevin McMahill, undersheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. He added, “We all want answers.”
The wealthy retiree had been able to collect a huge arsenal of weapons. In the span of 13 months, he was able to purchase a haul of 33 guns. Some of these guns he modified using a bump stock. He was able to smuggle these weapons to his hotel suite. The police also found over 19 firearms and explosives at his Nevada home. Several pounds of ammonium nitrate were found in his car.
Our assessment is that the security agencies should have been more vigilant in checking the background of Paddock and his immediate family. It is also important for the law enforcement to find a motive or a pattern in Paddock’s behavior as it could be essential in preventing such attacks in the future. Additionally, there needs to be thoughtful conversation on the need for gun control in the wake of the tragedy.