Stephen Paddock’s mass murder in Las Vegas was unusual in several ways. Paddock was 64 years old, with no criminal record and, as far as has been reported, no history of mental illness. So he does not fit the classic “shooter” profile. On the other hand, he was not too dissimilar to James Hodgkinson; is there a trend toward 60+ would-be mass murderers? Two is not enough for a trend, but it may be something to keep an eye on.
Paddock planned his crime exceptionally well, going to the length, for example, of hiding a camera in a food service cart in the hallway outside his room, so he would know when police approached. The Washington Post has a good account of what we know now.
Paddock brought “more than ten suitcases” to his Mandalay Bay hotel room; they apparently contained 23 guns and a lot of ammunition. He stayed at the hotel for several days before his murder spree, so I assume he forewent housekeeping. I expect that many victims or their heirs will sue Mandalay Bay. Perhaps from now on, hotels will feel obliged to be more curious about their guests.
So far, there is no indication of any motive. If Paddock left a “manifesto,” it hasn’t been reported. ISIS has claimed him as a soldier, and everyone (including me) assumes they are lying. But we don’t know this for sure: ISIS says Paddock was a recent convert to Islam. At this point, I have seen no evidence to support his claim, but much is yet to be learned.
Paddock could have been a rabid liberal, like James Hodgkinson. Liberals on Twitter and Facebook have all but applauded his murders on the ground that country music fans are likely to be Republicans, and Paddock may have felt the same way. But currently there is no evidence to that effect.
Paddock’s ability to fire lots of rounds into the crowd at the country music festival was enhanced, reportedly, by his use of a “bump stock” on one or more rifles. This is a modification that allows a semiautomatic firearm to behave more like an automatic firearm, i.e., to spray more bullets in the same time. I take it that this modification is illegal, but not very difficult or expensive. [UPDATE: Apparently this is a legal modification. I don’t know, it’s the first time I’ve heard of it.] It also may not have made much difference: you can fire rounds plenty fast with any legal semiautomatic rifle.
Liberals have, of course, seized on the murders to renew their calls for “common sense gun control.” The problem they can’t solve is that we already have hundreds of common sense laws and regulations on the books relating to firearms. If there is another one that would prevent murders like this from taking place, what is it? That is a question to which the Democrats have no answer. As best we know at this point, Paddock obtained his many firearms legally. With no prior record, he passed repeated background checks. So Democrats cast about to find some link between this crime and a proposed law–any proposed law.
Hillary Clinton couldn’t come up with any “common sense” legislation that hypothetically would have stopped Paddock’s rampage, so she did the next best thing. She used the mass murder to oppose a proposal to eliminate a $200 federal tax on silencers (or suppressors, as they are more accurately called). The tax has no purpose other than to suppress the sales of silencers, which protect against hearing loss. Her tweet:
The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots.
Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 2, 2017
Hillary knows nothing about firearms. (But she doesn’t know anything about economics, either, and she never let that stand in her way.) When gunpowder explodes, it makes a loud noise. People who have fired guns for decades without using ear protection are often close to deaf. Suppressors don’t make rifles silent; rather they suppress the sound so as to prevent, to some degree, hearing loss. The sound of a suppressed rifle has been likened in decibels to that of a jackhammer.
The idea that a “silenced” rifle wouldn’t have been heard by Las Vegas concert-goers, and that they wouldn’t have noticed that fellow concert-goers were being shot and falling down, is an absurd fantasy. Hillary’s tweet is a disgusting example of a politician’s attempt to make hay out of a tragedy.
Not that there is anything wrong with using a natural or human-induced disaster to make a public policy point, as long as you wait until the bodies are cold (which Hillary didn’t). If politicians have constructive solutions to hurricanes, tornadoes, mass murders or anything else, they should be free to advocate for them.
The problem in the case of mass shooter incidents is that the Democrats don’t actually have a constructive solution. They fail to acknowledge the vast web of statutes and regulations that already surround firearms, and the solutions they propose are thin gruel that would not prevent anything. So they are simply trying to fire up their ill-informed base. Most people realize this, so it doesn’t work.