Las Vegas Shooting – What We Know, What We Think

UPDATE: According to CNN, the most recent and reliable update we can find as of this writing, 47 firearms have been recovered from the gunman’s hotel room and two properties associated with the shooter’s name. Additionally, 12 bump-fire stocks were found on guns in the shooter’s hotel room.


As you’ve probably heard by now, on Sunday night a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas. As of this writing, at least 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured during a music festival.

Here’s what we know…
The suspect is named Stephen Paddock, from Mesquite, Nevada. He was 64 years old. He apparently killed himself after the shooting, as he was discovered dead and alone in his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. He had at least 10 rifles in his room when he was discovered.

​There was no clear motive as of this writing. There doesn’t seem to be a connection to terrorism. We also don’t know if he had military training. Nor do we know what type of optical sights he used if any, whether he fired more than one weapon or how much ammunition was available to him for the weapons he used.

Here’s what we think…
It’s unusual for a mass shooting suspect to be an older man. The fact that he’s white is not a big surprise, but most mass shooters are young. According to the New York Times, mass murderers are almost always male and other than school student shootings, in their 30s or 40s.

​Based on the audio we’ve heard, the shooter had a fully automatic weapon of some kind, which is unusual. In the audio, you can hear the bullets coming out in extended bursts. A machine gun or a military-style assault rifle can fire this way. Most shooters use a semi-auto handgun or AR-style rifle because those are easier to obtain. Weapons capable of firing in bursts are much more regulated in the United States.

This case is unusual for a couple of reasons…one, it’s so hard to get a real automatic weapon. It’s hugely expensive​ and you have to have a class 3 Federal Firearms License (which is itself expensive and tough to get) to obtain one.

There is also the possibility that his weapon had been modified to shoot in bursts. We won’t know until more details emerge. He could have used a slide fire to make the weapon fire faster, but there’s no way he could have fired as fast as it sounds like he is just by pressing the trigger. (See update above.)

Nevada allows gun owners to purchase unlimited magazine capacity. So he could have fired a long time without needing to reload. Reports say that the shooter was about 400 yards from the resort to the concert stage. That’s within a long but possible range for many military-style rifles but within the range for light machine guns.

One thing we can say is that in this case, unlike many other mass shooting incidents, it doesn’t appear that a concealed carrier that happened to be near the shooter would have been able to neutralize the situation.

Image from nbcnews.com

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