Sunday night we suffered through the deadliest and most heinous mass shooting in US history. A lone gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, ensconced in a two-room suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the “strip” in Las Vegas, shot thousands of rounds into a crowd of some 20,000 people who were attending a Jason Alden concert in the plaza below. Paddock opened fire at 10:08 pm local time, 1:08 am Monday Eastern time, and discharged thousands of rounds, indiscriminately in about ten minutes. At the present time, the death toll stands at 59, with some 527 more wounded, some critically.
According to multiple witnesses and tv audio the weapons used were either fully automatics or were semi-automatics that had been modified to fire like automatics. The firing was so intense that it set off the smoke alarm in the shooter’s hotel suite, which actually enabled the police and SWAT units to locate him quickly.
Reportedly, Paddock had some 23 weapons in his suite, including assault rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, scopes and a stand to mount and steady his rifle. He had a setup akin to a sniper’s nest.
As I write this, the investigation is ongoing, and likely, it will be some time before we have all the answers. At the moment, there are more questions than answers. For example:
- How was Paddock able to avoid detection by either the hotel staff or security system. According to the local sheriff, he first entered the hotel on September 28 and in the intervening days prior to the shooting he went in and out of the hotel several times ferrying his equipment. Also, he had to have made some noise setting up.
- Based upon current information, Paddock seems like a very unlikely perpetrator of this mass slaying. According to his brother, Eric, Paddock was a retired accountant who lived outside of Las Vegas and spent his time gambling, principally in high-stakes poker.
- Eric claims to be unaware of his brother having any mental or emotional problems or drug or alcohol addictions.
- He was cognizant that his brother owned a couple of handguns, but he was unaware that he owned any of the sophisticated weaponry used in the shootings or found at the scene. Fully automatic weapons made after the mid-1980s are illegal in the US. Moreover, those produced prior to then can only be purchased under very stringent conditions. How, then, did Paddock acquire them or convert them? “There’s absolutely no sense, no reason he did this,” Eric told a reporter.
- What was Paddock’s motive? Why was he not on the FBI’s radar?
- As of yet, investigators have not uncovered any links to any terrorist group, although ISIS has claimed he is part of its network.
- How was Paddock able to accumulate the vast amount of weaponry that has been found so far. In addition to what was recovered in the hotel, investigators have found some 19 weapons in his home, plus several pounds of ammonium nitrate, which can be made into explosives similar to that which was used in the 1995 OKC bombing.
- What is the role of Paddock’s girlfriend, Marylou Danley, who had been living with him and who has since fled to the Philippines. Did she mastermind this? Is she the link to a terror network? Good questions with no answers yet.
We are all shocked that something of this magnitude could happen on US soil. As I write this, DHS has advised it is not cognizant of any additional “creditable” threats, but many of us are extremely concerned nonetheless.
Now is the time for us to put aside our political and social differences and come together. Even so, some politicians have seized on the opportunity to score cheap political points and sow fear and dissension. For example, Hillary Clinton opportunistically tweeted an inane comment about the NRA and silencers: “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make it easier to get.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders diplomatically replied: “This isn’t a time for us to go after individuals or organizations. I think we can have those policy discussions, but today is not that day.” Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, was more blunt, characterizing Clinton’s tweet as “ignorant, irrelevant and exploitive.” I’m with Ben.
President Trump spoke for us all labelling it an act of “pure evil.” He added words of encouragement saying “our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. …. It is our love [for our fellow citizens] that defines us today – and always will, forever.” Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called the attack a “cowardly, despicable act” and heaped praise on first responders, whose quick, brave actions saved “scores of lives.”
Tragedies such as this tend to bring out the best in Americans. Indeed, there were many examples of people helping those in distress, even at the risk of their own lives. For example, there was Sonny Melton, who covered his wife with his own body to protect her from flying bullets at the loss of his own life; there were first responders who bravely ran TOWARD the action to treat the wounded and distressed and help restore order to a panicky situation; there was the off-duty policeman who borrowed a weapon and stood guard over several panicked civilians until help arrived; and there were people who voluntarily transported wounded to hospitals on their own in their own vehicles. These people and others helped selflessly and without hesitation. They did so without regard to race, color, religion or political affiliation. This made for a stark and welcome contrast to what we have seen during recent political demonstrations as portrayed (and, perhaps, exacerbated) by the media.
Many of our leaders have been warning of this possibility since “9/11,” and now that it has occurred we realize there could very well be additional attacks. America is replete with extremely inviting “soft targets,” such as schools, churches, malls, and sporting events, etc.
I urge people to live their lives. Don’t be paralyzed by fear. Don’t “hide under your bed.” If you do, the terrorists win. However, use common sense, and be vigilant.