After the Sandy Hook massacre, initial media statements were confused and often contradictory to the point that online conspiracy hawkers like Alex Jones had a field day ‘proving’ that the assault never took place. Now that more than three months have passed since the Las Vegas shooting and the unanswered questions continue to pile up, I’m surprised that we haven’t yet seen a new wave of conspiracy explanations to explain how and why the ‘real’ events on October 1st actually occurred.
Last week the FBI unsealed 448 pages of documents covering more than 20 searches conducted to figure out a possible motive for what Steve Paddock did. Given the fact that the hotel space he occupied was a crime scene and that he lived in one residence located in the town of Mesquite, why were so many warrants drawn up by the FBI? Because nowadays if you want to figure out anything about anyone, start by looking through the computer and/or the droid, then check out every online shopping and messaging account. And if you want to see if someone posted on Facebook, or Instagram, or bought something from Amazon, each of these venues requires a separate search.
What the newly-released documents in this case don’t tell us is anything beyond what we already knew. Paddock didn’t have a Facebook page; his emails were often sent to himself; he purchased a few items from Amazon, and that’s about it. Between his house and the hotel room at Mandalay Bay he evidently owned more than 30 weapons, along with a large stash of ammunition, various tools, body armor and other crap. He also banked online like everyone else.
What law enforcement now knows about Paddock’s behavior and motives is more or less what they knew before they went through all this legal rigmarole to gain access to the shooter’s private life. Or to put it differently, I read through the entire 488 pages released by the District Court, and I didn’t learn anything beyond what I knew within one day after the Las Vegas shooting took place – the guy took a bunch of legally-owned guns into a hotel room and began blasting away.
But leave it to our friends in law enforcement to use this documentary pile to develop some totally-unverified theories about what Paddock did and why, and then leave it to the media to take those theories and embellish them further. Then leave it to journalists who concentrate on gun news to embellish this ‘fake news’ a little more.
Today’s daily newsletter from our friends at The Trace contains this interesting comment about the Las Vegas document release:
According to investigators, the perpetrator intentionally sought to thwart their efforts, in part by buying many of his dozens of firearms online. Private dealers who peddle guns over the internet are not required to run background checks on buyers, nor maintain the paper trail that ATF agents follow when linking crime weapons to licensed sellers.
This comment links to a story in a Las Vegas paper which claims the guns came from “internet retailers,” a statement linked back to an FBI ‘spokesman’ who said that Paddock’s ‘methodical planning’ was making it more difficult for law enforcement to figure everything out.
So The Trace refers to ‘private dealers’ but the media story says that Paddock purchased his weapons from ‘online retailers,’ which if that’s the case, none of those gun purchases would have been hidden from view. It may still come as a shock to some of my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community, but buying guns on the internet and keeping such transfers immune from a background check may or may not have any connection at all.
Back on October 5th and again on October 12th and a third time on October 26th I wrote columns arguing that we didn’t know much, if anything, about what happened on October 1st. Don’t hold your breath.