On Sunday, October 1st, 2017, Steve Craig Paddock, a 64 year old man from Mesquite, Nevada, indiscriminately opened fire at civilians during a country musical festival on the Las Vegas Strip. He continuously shot civilians for 11 minutes before having a stand-off with the police and killing himself. With 59 people dead (including himself), and approximately 500 injured, this incident is the deadliest mass shooting in US History.
Paddock checked in to the Mandalay Bay Hotel and stayed at his hotel suite on the 32nd floor, preparing for the shooting. He somehow snuck 23 firearms and many rounds of ammunition past hotel security. After Paddock broke two windows using a hammer, he began shooting at around 10:05 p.m. Police were notified and reached the hotel by 10:17 p.m. The shooting had already ended by then. Paddock was having a stand-off with the hotel security, who informed the Las Vegas police department that Paddock is occupying Room 32135. At 11:20 p.m., police breached his room only to find him dead because of a self-inflicted gun wound.
Although Paddock bought semi-automatic firearms, he was able to turn them into near-automatic guns for an even deadlier effect. A semi-automatic gun requires a shooter to pull the trigger each time one round is fired. On the other hand, an automatic firearm continuously fires bullets when a shooter pulls and holds the trigger in place. It’s illegal for civilians to buy and/or own automatic firearms since 1986, the year President Ronald Reagan signed the Firearm Owner’s Protection Act. However, Steve Paddock successfully converted his AR-15A2 Sporter II Carbine to a fully automatic weapon using a bomb stock. This simple $99 add-on uses a gun’s recoil power to automatically put pressure on the trigger, causing it to rapidly fire rounds. This bomb stock - in addition with High Capacity magazines, which reduce the time spent reloading - enabled Paddock to kill and injure a huge amount of people. Such use of fully automatic weapons has not been used in mass shootings since 1982.
Even though Steve Paddock committed an act that incited terror in the hearts of many Americans, he has not been identified as a terrorist. The FBI released a statement explaining that Paddock’s motives have yet not been determined. All the FBI has released so far is the testament of his relatives. Steve Paddock was described by his brothers as being an ordinary man, with no religious or political affiliation. He has no children, and has married and divorced twice. His girlfriend, Marylou Danley, 62, claims he bought her ticket to visit her family in the Philippines. According to her story, he wired her approximately $100,000 to buy a house for her family. The money was most likely acquired through gambling, as friends have stated that he was a heavy gambler, often gambling tens of thousands of dollars. Danley came back to the states after the shooting willingly. “I knew the FBI wanted to speak to me,” said Danley, “and I wanted to speak to them.”
There is no verified motive, but a likely theory has been traversing the internet recently. Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Steve’s father, was a bank robber and con artist who was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list in 1969 after escaping from a high-security federal prison. He lost contact with his family because of his criminal record so as to not negatively influence his children, which seemed to initially, work. Unlike his father, Steve Paddock didn’t have a single criminal record during his 64 years of life prior to the shooting. However, he still committed such an atrocious act of villainy. No matter the motive, it most likely draws connection to his father’s criminal life.
The casualties could have been lowered drastically if Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposed plan passed. The earlier-mentioned Firearm Owner’s Protection Act of 1986 not only made fully autonomous weapons illegal, but illegalized “any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun [automatic weapon]”. However, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) stated that bump stocks are not illegal because they attach to the exterior of weapons and do not include any automatically functioning mechanical parts. They might be used to convert an ordinary weapon to an automatic one, but if the parts themselves are not autonomous, then they are not illegal. After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed to get rid of this loophole, but her plan was ignored, allowing an even deadlier shooting occur. Now, after the Vegas shooting, she is back with a similar proposal. This time, she is not alone. Surprisingly, the National Rifle Administration (NRA), is backing any new laws regulating the use of bump stocks. Both parties are hopeful in preventing a shooting of this scale from happening ever again.