As For The Mandalay Bay Shooting, What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.

So the mountain moved (to paraphrase Phaedrus) and out came a mouse in the form of an 81-page report from the Las Vegas Police Department covering the events of October 1, 2017 when Steve Paddock barricaded himself in a hotel room and set a new American record for the number of people killed and wounded in a rampage shooting event. You can download the report here but save yourself the trouble because there’s really nothing we didn’t know about the how’s and the why’s of this horrific 20-minute shooting spree that we didn’t know within a couple of days after the volleys that poured from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel came to an end.

LV2             Paddock did what just about all rampage shooters do in the months and weeks leading up to the event. He stockpiled lots of guns and lots of ammunition, he knew the venue well, he behaved in a normal way to the point that even his live-in girlfriend claimed that nothing appeared to be amiss, and he made a point of not telling anyone about his specific plan. These four elements – building an arsenal, scouting out the terrain, acting just like everyone else, not divulging the specific plan – was exactly what happened at Virginia Tech, Aurora, Isla Vista, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Sandy Hook and just about everywhere else where a rampage shooting has occurred since 1966 when Charlie Whitman took a bunch of guns up to the top of the University of Texas Tower and began blasting away.

Paddock also shared one more feature with most, but not every rampage shooter, namely, that when the blasting away ended, so did his own life. Which creates an immediate problem in terms of figuring out why rampage shooters commit rampages, because few of them are around who can then tell everyone why they did what they did. But for the several shooters who have survived their own rampages – James Holmes in Aurora, Anders Breivik in Norway – it appears they simply want to become notorious and well-known and choose this particular type of behavior to gain notoriety, even if they spend the rest of their lives in environments which don’t give them much opportunity to cash in on their new-found fame.

One other issue with rampage shooters that remains completely beyond any understanding at all. The fact that they devote serious time to developing a game plan, stocking up with weapons, casing out the venue, and so on and so on, doesn’t reveal the ‘trigger’ event or moment which makes them decide their plan is now good to go. Paddock evidently wanted to blast away at a large crowd attending a public event, but his computer searches indicate that Vegas was one of a number of such events which might have provided him with the scenario he would use. Deciding that you want to plan a rampage shooting is simply not the same thing as carrying it out. The shooter at Sandy Hook was on his computer studying other shooting rampages for months before he drove over to the elementary school at Sandy Hook. How come he chose that particular day?

One thing the Las Vegas timeline reveals is that it took the cops close to 75 minutes to get to the room where Paddock was located and breach the door. First responders on the ground began helping victims almost immediately. How come it took so long to get into where the actual shooting was taking place?  And by the way, we still haven’t learned how a member of the team that first entered Paddock’s room took personal pics of the crime scene, including a dead shooter, which then showed up on various internet sites. The chief, Joseph Lombardo, promised a thorough investigation of what can only be described as a complete contamination of the crime scene. A thorough investigation. Yea, right.

Know the old saying, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? As far as figuring what happened on October 1st, 2017, that saying is still ringing true.

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Want To Know What Happened In Vegas? We Still Don’t Know.

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.

LV2             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.

There’s Nothing Like A Good Story To Help Sell Guns.

Sooner or later someone in the gun business would figure out how to merge reality with fantasy and take advantage of the upsurge in left-wing political activities since the election of the nut-job known as Donald Trump.  It started with the home-school queen, Dana Loesch, who popped up in an NRA video production whining about threats posed by the Left. She goes on and on about how the Left is doing one dangerous and violent thing after another and her rant concluded with, “the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth.”

tactical              Now notice – no mention of guns, no mention of armed, self-defense – the whole thing is about as subtle as getting whacked over the head with a two-by-four. But now a gun company, admittedly not yet a major player in the industry, has started running messaging on its Facebook page which explicitly takes Dana’s message about fighting left-wing violence to another level and making the clearest possible connection between politics and armed, self-defense; in this case, using an AR-15 assault rifle to defend everything that patriots hold dear.

The company is called Spike’s Tactical out of Florida, which sells various AR-15 models and claims they build the finest AR-15’s ‘on the planet,’ even though every other AR outfit basically says the same thing.  The good news about the AR design is that it’s kind of like a Lego set; you can buy all the individual parts and put the gun together any way you want. The bad news is that AR sales have hit rock bottom, the proof is simply the fact that the new guns cost about half of what they were selling for during the heady days of the Obama regime.

When assault rifles first hit the market as a mass product, the gun industry tried to picture them as nothing more than just another type of ‘sporting’ gun, no different from any other rifle that a hunter or sportsman would take into the field. The industry even invented a new term, the ‘modern sporting rifle,’ as if there was the slightest similarity between these guns which take 30-round magazines and the Browning or Remington semi-auto hunting rifles which held 4 or 5 rounds. This attempt to present the AR as just nothing other than a 21st-century version of the Daisy Red Ryder found under every Christmas tree began to take some serious lumps after a guy stuck his ‘sporting gun’ out of a hotel window in Vegas, killing or wounding more than 600 folks, but leave it to the fertile imaginations of the people selling guns at Spike’s Tactical to turn the idea of ‘sporting arms’ on its head and make the concept of killing people with an AR-15 a virtue instead of a vice.

The release of the ad, which shows four armed citizens protecting us from a murderous, threatening Antifa bunch, happened to appear at the same time that one of America’s most beloved patriots, Cliven (‘let me tell you about your Negro’) Bundy, had all the charges against him and his sons dropped that came out of the standoff at his ranch in 2014. And as soon as he emerged from the courtroom, ol’ Clive made it clear that he’s ready to resume his fight. His Facebook page is already selling sweat shirts and I’m sure there’s more consumer crap to come.

If I were the owner of a tactical gun company, I would release a Cliven Bundy limited edition rifle, complete with a carrying case and t-shirt because the profit is always in the add-ons, and I notice that Spike’s Tactical is already promoting a clothing company under another brand name. The point is that notwithstanding the usual liberal lament about how the gun industry increasingly pushes products toward the most extreme elements on the alt-right, the truth is that what works for the gun business best of all is messaging based on fantasy, not on fear.

 

Thomas Gabor – How Did the Las Vegas Gunman Get His Hands on a Weapon of War?

On Sunday night in Las Vegas, a shooter opened fire on a concert from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort with what appeared to be an assault weapon. This is a devastating tragedy, and one that has unfortunately become a trend in the U.S.: There has been an average of one mass shooting a day in 2017 (defined as four or more people shot, excluding the shooter). This incident has eclipsed all previous mass shootings in U.S. history, as there are already 58 people dead and hundreds wounded.

LVWhat kind of weapon is capable of inflicting so many casualties, from such a distance, in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes? While we don’t know where the gunman got his weapons and precise information on them has not been disclosed, based on reports of the rate of fire, they were likely either semiautomatic or fully automatic assault weapons. Semiautomatic assault weapons (whose trigger must be pulled to fire each round) have a rate of fire of over 100 rounds a minute. These weapons were banned from 1994 to 2004 under what is commonly referred to as the “assault weapon ban,” and are now readily available for sale in all but six states. There are reports that the shooter might have fired an automatic weapon (one just presses the trigger and the weapon keeps firing until it is released), which can fire up to a thousand rounds a minute. These weapons are tightly regulated. Regardless of the rate of fire, many of these weapons can pierce a soldier’s helmet from a distance of 500 yards.

More than half of the deadliest mass shootings since 1949 have occurred in the last decade, I’ve found in my own research. This is despite improved emergency response and better surgical outcomes. The only credible explanation for the increased lethality of these incidents is deadlier weapons and ammunition. Assault-style firearms have been the weapons of choice in many of the deadliest mass shootings in recent history: Orlando, Fla., Newtown, Conn., and San Bernardino, Calif.

The incident in Las Vegas reveals the fallacy of the tired slogan, “Guns don’t kill, people do.” Yes, we need to address why so many Americans are attempting to kill a maximum of their fellows at random. At the same time, only a weapon designed for war could kill so many people from such a distance. High-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 100 rounds of ammunition only make that danger worse.

These weapons and magazines should never be in civilian hands and should be banned. Obviously, this is a tall order given the influence of the gun lobby on the Trump administration and majority party in Congress. But it’s not impossible. Existing weapons can be bought back from owners at a fair market price and destroyed. Australia melted down up to a third of its gun inventory following its deadliest-ever mass shooting in 1996, and has all but eliminated public mass shootings.

The gun lobby claims to champion freedom. Yet every successive large-scale mass shooting leads to an increasing demand for security and a continuing erosion of Americans’ freedom to use public spaces without fear. Citizens need to sustain their outrage over this incident and demand restrictions on ownership of assault-style weapons.

 

This article originally appeared in Fortune Magazine.

 

 

 

What Happened In Las Vegas? Nobody Knows And Nobody Cares.

Our man Shaun Dakin sent me a note the other day expressing profound grief at the degree to which the Las Vegas shooting has slipped from public view. And there’s no question that he’s correct. The issue of bump-stocks is now morphing into a regulatory problem for the ATF and I notice that bump-stock manufacturers are no longer pretending that they’ve shut down and left town. As for any new gun laws, those are just as dead post-Las Vegas as they were dead prior to the rampage event. Shaun also asked me to come up with a theory as to why this event has had such a brief media shelf-life, so here goes.

LV2    You would think that the worst mass shooting not just in U.S. history but in the entire history of small-arms would still be making some media noise. But the only media mention in the last few days has been a story about how off-duty cops from California who were in the concert crowd and performed heroic, life-saving efforts have been temporarily denied workmen’s comp so that they can spend some time off the job nursing both physical and mental wounds. The problem may eventually be sorted out but the story has already disappeared.

Talk about disappearing, it now turns out that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, is presumed to have removed a hard drive from his laptop computer before ending his own life. But the hard drive evidently can’t be found. Which raises two interesting questions: How do investigators know that it was Paddock who removed the drive; and where the hell is the drive? Computer memories tend to be a basic piece in evidence when law enforcement attempts to figure out motives, or movements of someone being investigated, particularly if the suspect happens to be dead. I’m still waiting for the Las Vegas Police to announce the results of the ‘internal’ investigation which was going to tell us which cop walked into Paddock’s hotel room and took pictures of him lying there dead. Now we can add another reason for this investigation never to be done.

Getting back to Shaun’s question about how come nobody’s interested in what happened at the Mandalay Bay, I think the quick way in which the whole thing has simmered down is basically a reflection of how the issue was handled by the man at the top. I’m referring here to Trump who made his first statement on Monday which sounded like either someone had put part of Obama’s brain into his head or at least doped him up to the point that he sounded restrained and dignified for the first time in his entire public life. Then he went out to Vegas and not only was quiet and respectful again, but even said words like ‘gun laws,’ a nomenclature which has never previously slipped out of his mouth.

This is the same Trump who bowed and scraped every time Gun-nut Nation accused Hillary of ‘politicizing’ the gun issue whenever she talked about gun violence during the campaign. This is the same Trump who continues to wax eloquent about how mass shooters are just really ‘sick’ guys even though most mass shooters do not present any symptoms of mental illness prior to engaging in a rampage-shooting event.

The afternoon that 28 people were killed at Sandy Hook, Obama went on television and mentioned other mass shootings, said that such events had occurred too many times, and promised to work for a political solution to keep such events from happening again. Two days later he appeared at a prayer vigil at Sandy and promised to “use whatever power this office holds” to stop mass violence caused by guns.

Know what? It’s not mass shootings that have stopped – it’s the attempt to regulate the use of guns which produce mass violence that has come to an end. Which is why Las Vegas is no longer an issue of  media concern. Which is why Shaun Dakin’s grief will continue to be profound.

 

 

What Happens When Someone Turns In Their Guns.

What is it about guns that sometimes brings out the absolute worst, most debased forms of human behavior? On the one hand we have gun owners who decide to check into a hotel, take a room on the 32nd floor, and then fire hundreds of rounds into a concert-going crowd to see how many people they can kill. On the other hand, when the word gets around on social media that someone voluntarily got rid of his guns because of what happened in Vegas on October 1st, that individual is subject to a barrage of the most vile, disgusting and stupid online attacks that could be imagined, up to and including threats on his life.

LV2            I’m not making this up.  Last week a resident of Phoenix, Jonathan Pring, turned in a pistol and a rifle to the Phoenix PD and then made the mistake of putting up a post on Facebook in which he stuck a video of the guns being given to the cops along with a statement that he was taking this step because of the shooting at the Mandalay Bay.  Within hours, he began receiving countless insults, profanities and even threats to his business and his life, with such comments as “someone needs to go shoot this idiot and make him wish he could have defended himself,” being not all that crazy compared to others he received. And this particular comment came from a self-described three-percenter who, of course, makes a point of telling everyone how patriotic she is on her own Facebook page.

What I find interesting about these online outbursts, and I am a target of such attacks all the time, is that such activity often reflects the degree to which much of the chatter on social media is nothing more than the attempt by childish minds (regardless of the age of the body in which this mind is contained) to outdo one another in terms of who can say something more offensive than what the previous post actually said.  And frequently these unreconstructed idiots belong to social media groups which basically exist to allow all the members to engage in this one-upmanship behavior by identifying and targeting individuals who express a contrary point of view.

On the other hand, what really bothered me about the reaction to Pring’s principled and selfless decision to turn his guns in after the Las Vegas rampage was not the fact that his online video attracted some gun-rights crazies to crawl out from under their rocks. Much more disturbing was the fact that his actions were basically ignored by the gun violence prevention (GVP) community who should have been spreading the news of his decision as far and as wide as they could.

If I had a nickel for every time that some GVP advocate or influencer complains about the ‘power,’ of the NRA without mentioning the degree to which opposition to the NRA on social media is so tepid and weak. When some deputy sheriff from Podunk makes a statement about how he supports concealed-carry, the NRA shouts out the message from here to kingdom come. But here’s a guy who made a remarkable statement about the risk of legal gun ownership and the GVP responds to his message with a big yawn. Shouldn’t the Brady Campaign invite Jonathan Pring to come to DC and accept an award? Shouldn’t Gabby and Mark fly out to meet with him? God knows they go everywhere else.

If GVP is ever going to reverse the continued growth of support for gun ‘rights,’ even among people who don’t own guns, their activists must become much more aggressive about using social media to promote their point of view. The video posted by Jonathan Pring showing him giving his guns to the cops should have been the featured post on every GVP Facebook site. And that’s the way you reach out to a wider audience rather than continuing to talk only to folks who already agree with what you say.

 

We Still Don’t Know What Happened In Vegas. So What?

We are now going on Week Four since the terrible, terrible event in Las Vegas and we don’t know any more about what happened beyond what we knew ten minutes after the shooting stopped, namely, the name of the guy who stuck a gun out of the window and began blasting away. Oh, I forgot, the LVPD is conducting their own ‘internal’ investigation and the management of Mandalay Bay is also trying to figure out how come it took private and public security more than fifteen minutes to get up to the 32nd floor after they were notified that someone was lying in the hall with a bullet in his leg.

LV2             The Connecticut State Police took nearly a year to issue their official report on what happened at Sandy Hook. The Governor’s report about Columbine was released more than two years after Klebold and Harris walked into the high school and began shooting the place up and detonating a few bombs. Have you even heard about the formation of any kind of official group to study and explain what happened on October 1st?

As the continued spiral of mass shootings appears to be swirling in an ever-widening circle (more than one per day so far this year) I notice that the same arguments about how to identify people who might start gunning everyone down are once again restating the same risk factors that we have known for the last twenty or so years. The latest version can be found in a commentary by our friend Garen Wintemute, who says that predictors of gun violence include “abuse of alcohol and controlled substances, acute injury, a history of violence (including a suicide attempt), poorly controlled severe mental illness, an abusive partner, and serious life stressors.”

The problem with Wintemute’s argument, unfortunately, is that those same predictors have been used to identify people at risk for any kind of violent behavior, and since only 7% of the people arrested for aggravated assault used a gun, how come the other 93% weren’t attempting to inflict serious injury in the same way? You can’t tell me that only 75,000 out of one million aggravated assaults occurred with a gun because it’s hard to get your hands on a gun. Give me a break, okay?

On the other hand, it occurs to me that maybe we really shouldn’t worry about learning the facts about Las Vegas and here’s the reasons why. First of all, folks who believe that we should have open access to all the guns we want to own don’t base their arguments on anything which happens to be true. Remember what Trump said the other day when he accused his predecessor of never calling the families of dead service members, an accusation which turned out to be totally untrue? He said, “That’s what I was told.” Know what? If you ask the average member of Gun-nut Nation how he knows that armed citizens prevent millions of crimes every year you’ll get the exact, same response – I was told. If I had a nickel for everybody who has wandered into my gun shop over the last 17 years and begins lamenting our state’s ‘tough’ gun laws by saying, “Someone told me….”

The other reason we really don’t need to know any more facts about what happened in Vegas on October 1st is because not a single fact would change what is the basic takeaway from the event, namely, that someone decided to see how many people he could kill by using what the small-arms industry refers to as a ‘modern sporting gun.’ Now of course the story, not yet actually shown to be true (here we go again with the search for facts) is that by sticking a bump-stock on a semi-auto rifle, Paddock was no longer shooting a ‘modern sporting gun.’

But the truth is he was never shooting a ‘sporting rifle’ because there’s nothing sporting about shooting human beings with any kind of gun.