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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

All Of A Sudden Everyone’s In Favor Of A New Gun Law – Kind Of.

What a surprise. A guy mows down more than 500 people with an assault rifle of some sort and all of a sudden Congressional Republicans, the NRA and their spokesperson, Donald Trump, are willing to have a ‘discussion’ about gun laws. Charles Grassley, who never met a law protecting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ he didn’t like, wants to hold hearings; Marco Rubio, who used a visit to Sturm, Ruger for a photo-op during his brief Presidential campaign wants to insure that there are no ‘vulnerabilities’ in federal gun laws (whatever that means); and even Rep. Mark Meadows, head of the Congressional Freedom Caucus (a.k.a what’s left of the Tea Party) is open to considering a gun bill.

LV             Most everyone in Gun-nut Nation fell into line once Trump mumbled something about a discussion on gun laws as he was getting ready to fly to Puerto Rico before going on to Vegas the following day. There were some holdouts, of course, such as the nuts from Gun Owners of America who consider themselves to be the true holder of the flame for gun rights, but they can be ignored. As for Rush, he had to come up with some pathetic defense of Trump’s new ‘soft’ position on guns, so he’s spinning the bizarrely-stupid idea that the President is ‘pretending’ to be for a gun bill in order to get the left-wing media off his back.

And then we have the response of our friends in Fairfax, who rather than waiting a week and then blasting away which is what they did after Sandy Hook, have released a written statement supporting the idea that the ATF should review the accessory known as a bump-stock which can be used to make an AR or AK-style rifle fire full-auto even though the trigger is still re-set to its firing position after every shot.

So both sides are getting a little bit of what they want: the pro-gun gang aren’t discussing the banning of an actual gun and the gun-control crowd can finally say that the industry’s attempt to pass off assault weapons as something they call ‘modern sporting rifles’ has just taken a big dent. But before the political posturing on both sides goes any further, there’s something you have to understand. Here we are a week beyond when the shots rang out, and we still don’t know out whether, in fact, a gun with a bump-stock was used at all.

The cops who busted into the shooter’s room didn’t need five minutes to figure out which gun or guns he used in the assault. The floor was evidently littered with spent shell casings; look down at one and you instantly know the caliber of the gun. Then walk around the room, grab every gun in that caliber, put your hand around the barrel and the amount of heat coming off the carbon steel identifies the requisite gun. The cops were actually too busy taking pictures which were sold or given to various news websites to worry about the guns, which means this all-important crime scene was contaminated beyond belief.

And if you think I’m coming down too hard on the Las Vegs cops who reacted to the rampage in about as quick and effective a way as they could, think again. Not only do we have pictures of the guns floating around, but there’s also a picture of Paddock lying on the floor obviously very bloody and very dead. Who first posted this gem? Alex Jones – who else!

So now the entire political ruling class begins a debate about gun violence without having the faintest idea what they are talking about. What if the shooter was using a legally-purchased full-auto gun? What if it turns out that he bought what the gun industry would like you to believe is a ‘modern sporting rifle’ and converted it into an automatic rifle without using a bump-stock? Engaging in a discussion about gun violence without any evidence-based information has become as normal as gun violence itself.

 

Is The Response To Bump-Stocks A Ban? Nope.

So the bill to ‘ban’ bump-stocks isn’t a ban at all.  It forbids anyone from manufacturing, importing or selling these things and, oh yes, you also can’t smuggle one in. Which isn’t a ban.  A ban means that nobody can own the product – period.  Which means that current bump-stock owners would have to get rid of them, trash them, disassemble them, ship them to Honduras, whatever. That’s a ban. The Curbelo-Moulton bill isn’t a ban.

bump             When Australia decided to ban assault rifles after a mass shooting in 1996 that left 35 people dead and 23 wounded, the government not only prohibited the import, manufacture and sale of assault weapons, it also made the ownership of such guns previously purchased to be against the law. Which meant that Australians were going to lose property that had been purchased in a legal way.  That’s expropriation without compensation. And that’s what a ‘ban’ really means. Gone.

To get around this problem, the Australian government added a 2% tax to the national health insurance and used the revenue to compensate assault-rifle owners at a fair market price when they turned in their guns. Now let’s say, for sake of argument, that there are 100,000 bump-stocks floating around, and let’s say every bump-stock owner got $100 bucks for turning it in. That’s 10 million bucks. Hell, we spend more money buying bottled water every week. That’s nothing.

But the reason we won’t ban bump-stocks isn’t because of the chump-change for getting them all turned in; it would set an interesting, and for Gun-nut Nation a very ugly precedent for other gun bans.  And if there’s one thing which unites every member of Gun-nut Nation together in defense of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ it’s not that Mike Bloomberg is behind every, nefarious gun-control strategy that has ever been announced, it’s the idea that any restrictions on guns represents a ‘slippery-slope’ which will eventually lead to confiscation of all guns, or worse.

I’m not sure when the NRA began selling the idea that gun ownership was synonymous with ‘freedom,’ but every time any kind of gun-control idea rears its ugly head, the response invariably begins with some muddled nonsense about how guns make us ‘free.’ And if the cost of that ‘freedom’ is eighty or ninety people whose lives end each day because they got shot with a gun, how do you dare place a price-tag on the freedoms that Americans enjoy? After all, if it weren’t for that creep Bloomberg, the good folks in New York City would still enjoy the freedom to buy large-size, full-calorie drinks at sporting events and other public venues, and everyone knows that holding your assault rifle in one hand and a 24-ounce Coke in the other is as American as apple pie, obesity and 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

You think the same government which forks out a measly 10 mil for bump-stocks would even hiccup if it had to lay out $12 billion which is what it would cost to compensate owners for all the assault rifles laying around at $800 apiece?  We’re going to fork over $400 billion to give the three military services a new plane, the F35, which they really don’t need. Spend 3% of that dough to disarm America, then impose martial law, resettle the entire population of Syria and a few other Muslim countries within our borders and ship Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh off to the other side of the moon. I guarantee you this plan exists. You can also meet real, live Martians at Area 51.

The big problem for the NRA is how to figure out how an ‘armed citizen’ could have prevented what happened in Vegas last Sunday night. I’ve got it! Remember how Wayne-o said that every school should have an armed guard after Sandy Hook? Why not insist that every hotel busboy in Vegas be trained to carry and use a gun? I’m sure the NRA Training Division is already working on a new course entitled ‘Basic Gun Handling While Carrying A Tray.’

What Keeps Coming Out Of Vegas Is Really “Fake News.”

Now that the investigation into the Las Vegas shooting has been going on for more than three days, the details coming out about what the shooter did and didn’t do in the room he occupied at the Mandalay haven’t clarified anything at all. To the contrary, the ‘evidence’ keeps creating more confusion every day. And by ‘evidence’ I’m not talking about a single, verifiable fact, but the continued on-the-record and off-the-record yapping by all kinds of law-enforcement experts who don’t know anything but keep shooting off their mouths.

vegas1             Here’s the latest from Jill Snyder, identified as the ATF agent-in-charge, who stated yesterday that Paddock had purchased 33 rifles and handguns in the last year, of which 12 of the semi-automatic rifles were then fitted with the bump-fire device which turns a semi-auto AR into a full-auto without either requiring a Class III – NFA license or breaking the law.

Great gugga-mugga! Even the Republicans are saying they are willing to consider a ‘ban’ on these things. Did you ever imagine that the NRA’s chosen people would state in public the idea that anything having to do with guns might actually be banned? Trump mentioned that although right now he’s busy praying for the victims but there might be time to discuss gun laws down the road.  The sacred 2nd-Amendment door has been opened a crack, Breitbart and Bannon are going nuts, but a law regulating guns in some way or another might actually get passed.

There’s only one little problem.  It doesn’t take 86 or so hours (the time which has now elapsed between ‘securing’ Paddock’s lair until right now) to figure out which of the 23 guns allegedly found in Paddock’s room were used by him to fire down at the crowd. Maybe it was a gun with a bump-fire device but maybe not. The news reports all say the floor was littered with empty shell casings; the casings identify the caliber of the gun that was fired, then check the barrels of the guns in that caliber to see the amount of powder residue and the temperature of the steel and you know. This doesn’t take 86 hours – it takes about 5 minutes to at least have a pretty good idea what you should be saying and not saying at a time when every word you say could be used to promote this agenda or that.

But why keep your mouth shut when this might be the only chance in your life to be able to say something that all the world is waiting to hear? On Wednesday, The New York Post carried a story which mentioned that one of the shell casings found on the floor was – get this – from the revolver that Paddock used to shoot himself in the head. Which means that first he blew his head off and then he emptied the revolver cylinder because the only way to remove an empty shell casing from a revolver is to manually unload the gun after it has been shot. Oh well, what’s the difference, a little detail here or there?

I’ll tell you the difference. People are struggling on both sides of the gun debate fence to decide for themselves what, if anything, is the connection between this particular event and the fact that more than 32,000 Americans will lose their lives this year because of guns.  How much will this toll be increased because of what Stephen Paddock did from a window in the Mandalay Bay?  A whole, big, one-tenth of one percent.

If Las Vegas provokes a serious debate about gun laws, I guarantee you that the debate will focus on this specific event as something which, going forward, needs to be eliminated or regulated through a new law. All the more reason why we need to get the facts straight and stop pretending that just because someone shoots their mouth off that what they say is based on facts.

banner 03

On Amazon.