Paddock motive a mystery

The motives of mass killers is usually known quite easily. Not so the Las Vegas killer, Stephen Paddock. So far no motive has been revealed, and Paddock doesn’t fit the usual profile of a mass murderer.

NY Times: No Manifesto, No Phone Calls: Las Vegas Killer Left Only Cryptic Clues

…in the four days since Stephen Paddock’s attack in Las Vegas — a shooting rampage that left 58 dead and hundreds seriously wounded — what drove him has remained a mystery, vexing the public and putting enormous pressure on federal and local investigators to find answers.

“In the spirit of the safety of this community or anywhere else in the United States I think it’s important to provide that information, but I don’t have it,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said in an interview Thursday. “We don’t know it yet.”

No grandiose manifesto has been found. No account of Mr. Paddock behaving dangerously or holding extremist views has emerged from neighbors or relatives. Unlike past killers, Mr. Paddock did not dial up the police to explain his actions.

Agents have fanned out across the country, interviewing family members and friends and looking for signs of mental illness.

Mr. Paddock left a trail of clues that are, so far, more cryptic than revealing: There was a note in his hotel room whose exact contents the authorities have yet to reveal. Sheriff Lombardo said that it contained numbers that were being analyzed for their relevance, and that it was not a manifesto or suicide note.

Mr. Paddock may have scouted other locations, including Fenway Park in Boston, Lollapalooza in Chicago and the Life is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas, before finally checking into a suite at the Mandalay Bay that had clear sight lines to Route 91, and a massive gathering of country music fans. He stockpiled expensive firearms over the course of many months.

Investigators have identified 47 firearms belonging to Mr. Paddock, including a dozen in his hotel suite that were enhanced to fire at an accelerated rate, and discovered a system of cameras Mr. Paddock set up to monitor the area around his location.

Despite the huge scale of the attack, why Mr. Paddock carried it out remained a huge and haunting question mark, said Steven B. Wolfson, the district attorney in Clark County, Nev., where the killings occurred. He estimated that in “99 percent of the cases,” the perpetrator of a drastic killing offers some kind of justification, however twisted.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and I can’t remember another homicide — and then you multiply what I’m about to say by 58 — where you don’t know why.”

Experts and law enforcement veterans caution that it can take time to establish a killer’s real motivations, piecing together electronic data with interviews and other shards of a life twisted into extreme violence.

Officials involved in the Las Vegas investigation have said they expect it will take an exhaustive search into Mr. Paddock’s past, spanning multiple states and decades of his life, to deduce what brought him to the windows of the Mandalay Bay hotel with such an elaborate plan for murder. In F.B.I. speak, they want to understand his “pathway to violence.”

They may discover what led to this massacre. Or it may remain a mystery.

Las Vegas, gun control and God

The mass shooting in Las Vegas has re-ignited gun control debate in the US (note that technically ‘gun’ is not an apt description), but as has happened many times before , it is likely to change little if anything.

Defenders of the ownership of firearms has already begun – see the vacuous Tammy Bruce: Why gun control won’t end mass murder

Statistics are being re-published, like How US gun culture compares with the world in 5 charts

  1. Americans own nearly half (48%) of the estimated 650m civilian owned guns worldwide.
  2. Americans own more guns per capita than residents of any other country
  3. The US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, but holds 31% of global mass shooters.
  4. Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than in other high income countries.
    GunDeathRates
  5. Worldwide, the countries with the highest gun-homicide rates are in Central and South America.

More from Vox:  Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts

America is an exceptional country when it comes to guns. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. But America’s relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms.

  1. America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany

  2. America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world

  3. There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook

  4. On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America

  5. States with more guns have more gun deaths

  6. It’s not just the US: Developed countries with more guns also have more gun deaths

  7. States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths

  8. Still, gun homicides (like all homicides) have declined over the past couple decades

  9. Most gun deaths are suicides

  10. The states with the most guns report the most suicides

  11. Guns allow people to kill themselves much more easily

  12. Programs that limit access to guns have decreased suicides

  13. Since the shooting of Michael Brown, police have killed at least 2,900 people

  14.  In states with more guns, more police officers are also killed on duty

  15. Support for gun ownership has sharply increased since the early ’90s

The NRA is a very strong lobby group that donates a lot of funds to politicians. The chances of significant controls on the ownership and use of firearms in the US seems slim, unless Donald Trump decides to do something worthwhile about it.

One claim that keeps coming up is that the more good people who have guns, the greater the chance of stopping bad people with guns from killing.

It took armed police about 70 minutes to locate and stop the Las Vegas killer.

Things are unlikely to change much if at all.

BBC: Las Vegas shooting: Five reasons US gun control won’t happen

The NRA

The National Rifle Association is one of the most influential interest groups in US politics – not just because of the money it spends on lobbying politicians, but also because of the engagement of its 5 million members.

In 2016 the NRA spent $4m on lobbying and direct contributions to politicians as well as more than $50m on political advocacy, including an estimated $30m to help elect Donald Trump president.

Gerrymandering

Most recent attempts to pass new federal laws regulating firearms are over before they ever really begin, stymied in the US House of Representatives, which has been in Republican hands since 2011.

Due to the way the lines of House congressional districts are drawn, many by Republican-controlled state legislatures, there are more “safe” seats for Republicans than there are for Democrats.

In these congressional districts, the politicians are more responsive to their primary voters, who tend to be motivated by hot-button issues like gun rights. The price for crossing these voters is much higher than alienating those who, while perhaps more in favour of gun control, do not vote in Republican primaries.

The filibuster

If a gun-control bill were to make it out of the House of Representatives, it would still face a challenge in the Senate, where the rural-urban divide plays itself out on the state level, as well. States dominated by big-city voters, such as New York, Massachusetts or California, are outnumbered by rural and Southern states with pro-gun sentiments.

The rules of the Senate can also thwart efforts to enact more stringent firearm regulation, thanks to the “filibuster” – a procedural hurdle that means most major pieces of legislation need the backing of 60 out of 100 senators to pass, rather than a simple 51-vote majority.

The courts

With Congress more interested in rolling back existing firearm regulations than implementing new ones, left-leaning US states have taken a greater role in implementing gun-control measures.

After the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, 21 states passed new gun laws, including imposing assault weapons bans in Connecticut, Maryland and New York.

Some of the laws have run up against another barrier, however – the US judicial system. In recent years the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the right to own personal weapons such as handguns is enshrined in the constitution.

Could it change? Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch has made it clear he views Second Amendment rights broadly. The president is filling out the ranks of the lower courts with pro-gun-rights judges. If anything, the judiciary is moving to the right on this issue.

The enthusiasm gap

Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to new gun-control laws at the national level is that opponents tend to hold fiercely to their beliefs, while support for new regulation tends to ebb and flow around each new instance of violence.

The NRA’s strategy, and that of pro-gun politicians, is to wait out the storm – to delay legislative efforts until attention turns elsewhere and the outcry fades.

Pro-gun politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, observe moments of silence and order flags flown half-staff. Then, in the quiet, legislative efforts are deferred and ultimately derailed.

God is probably nearly as influential as the NRA in the US.

Fox News: Lee Brice performed at Las Vegas shooting venue: ‘I believe God has a plan’

“I have faith that God has a plan and that he will prevail. That this kind of a terrorism, which I believe that it is. What kind of terrorism it is, I don’t care. It’s just a fact that somebody is trying to make a point to scare people, country music fans, innocent people to stop doing what they want to do.”

Faithwire:  Trump’s ‘God’-Filled Reaction to Las Vegas Shooting: ‘We Are Searching for…Some Kind of Light in the Darkness’

President Donald Trump delivered a statement before the nation on Monday, expressing horror over the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday that claimed more than 50 lives and left hundreds injured.

The commander-in-chief prayed for healing for the victims, their families and the nation at large. He also expressed sadness, shock and grief over the tragic events, saying that the shooter — whom police identified as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old male from Mequite, Nevada — “brutally murdered more than 50 people and wounded hundreds more.”

In addition to praising first responders for their quick response — one that he said was “miraculous” in nature — Trump repeatedly invoked God and faith throughout the short address.

“We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we …  ask God to help see you through this very dark period. Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

“In times such of these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers don’t come easy.”

The lethal US

As usual after a major massacre in the United States the issue of firearms violence, violence in general, imprisonment rates and other alarming statistics re-surface for a while, but things largely remain the same.

CNN: America the lethal

Americans often think of themselves as belonging to an exceptional nation, and in many ways they do.

Americans tend to be exceptional at praising themselves.

But the United States also leads the world in other ways that don’t match the often complacent self-conception that many Americans have of their own country. The United States locks up more of its population proportionally than any other country in the world, including authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies.

It also leads in another dubious statistic: More Americans are killed by fellow citizens armed with guns than in any other advanced country, according to the Small Arms Survey.

In 2011 alone, according to FBI statistics, more than 11,000 Americans were killed by firearms in the United States (a figure that excludes suicides).

Despite all the reasonable concerns in the United States about jihadist terrorism, in any given year Americans are almost 2,000 times more likely to be killed by a fellow American armed with a gun than by a jihadist terrorist. Since the 9/11 attacks, 95 Americans have been killed by jihadist terrorists, on average about six Americans a year, according to data collected by New America.

Authorities have clamped down on carrying a range of things of dubious threat on planes, but the US remains awash with lethal weapons. About have of privately owned weapons in the world are in the US.

Stephen Paddock, the perpetrator of the Las Vegas concert massacre, was found to have 23 weapons in his hotel room, and a similar number plus explosives in his home.

By contrast, in the United Kingdom, a country which is similar to the United States in terms of its laws and culture, Britain suffers around 50-60 gun deaths a year in a country where the population is around a fifth the size of the United States.

In other words, you are about 40 times more likely to be killed by an assailant with a gun in the United States than you are in the United Kingdom.

To be sure there are occasional mass-casualty attacks in Europe by murderers armed with guns, such as the assaults by the neo-Nazi Anders Breivik who killed 77 in Norway in 2011 and the attack in Dunblane, Scotland at a school where 16 children were killed in 1996, but these are exceptions to the rule.

President Donald Trump has said US will ‘be talking about gun laws as time goes by’:

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the US will “be talking about gun laws as time goes by” in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the nation’s deadliest in modern history.

“Look, we have a tragedy … and what happened in Las Vegas is in many ways a miracle. The police department has done such an incredible job,” Trump said at the White House before he left for Puerto Rico.

The President was asked about a gun bill currently making its way through the House that would loosen restrictions on purchasing gun silencers.

Trump said that he would talk about that later.He didn’t answer when reporters pressed him about whether the shooting was an act of “domestic terrorism.”

Whether it is labelled terrorism or not is just semantics.

The US continues to have a huge problem with crime and violence and firearms, and with the National Rifle Association being one of the strongest lobby groups in the US.

NRASafestPlace

Who are they trying to fool? Oh, that’s right, politicians. Successfully.

While 59 dead in one incident is extraordinary, the current death count from firearms in the US this year  is 11,689. There have been  274 ‘mass shootings’.

Little is likely to change, apart from the location of the next massacre, and the number of  casualties.

Las Vegas shooting – many dead and injured

The death toll from shooting at a concert in Las Vegas is now 58, with hundreds injured. It is reported that a single gunman using at least 10 weapons fired on the crowd from the 32nd floor of a resort.

Motive for the killing appears to be unknown at this stage.

Fox News: Las Vegas shooting: At least 58 dead in massacre Trump calls ‘act of pure evil’

A gunman turned a Las Vegas concert into a killing field Sunday night from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, using at least 10 guns to rain down a steady stream of fire, murdering at least 58 people and injuring more than 500 others in the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history.

The gunman, who fired down on the Route 91 Harvest Festival from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound just as police made entry to the room, according to LVMPD undersheriff Kevin McMahill.

The suspect was identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada. Federal law enforcement sources told Fox News that Paddock “was known to local authorities” in Vegas.
paddock01

Alleged killer, retired accountant Stephen Paddock

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said an “excess of 10 rifles” were found in the room, but did not immediately reveal a motive. Paddock had been in the hotel room since September 28, according to Lombardo.

A horrible act in a country awash with firearms.

The question inevitably asked is whether there are wider terrorist links.

At this time, federal officials do not see any connection to international terrorism and little is known about Paddock’s motivation, sources said. The Islamic State terror group took credit for the Las Vegas shooting, saying the gunman converted to Islam months ago, but provided no evidence back up the claim.

FBI Special agent-in-charge Aaron Rouse said at a news conference the agency has “determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group.”

This is by far the worst massacre in the US for some time, but here are statistics for the year to date from the Gun Violence Archive:

Gun violence  and crime incidents are collected/validated from 2,500 sources daily – incidents and their source data are found at the gunviolencearchive.org website.

1: Actual number of deaths and injuries
2: Number of INCIDENTS reported and verified