Sunday night’s massacre at a country music concert in the famed Las Vegas Strip is, as US President Donald Trump described it, “an act of pure evil.”
At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured after retired accountant Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, trained automatic gunfire at thousands of people at the Route 91 Harvest music festival from a room on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel.
The death toll has made it the worst mass shooting in modern US history. At least one Filipino among the concert audience has been reported injured.
The incident could also be deemed most bizarre. While Las Vegas police have secured Paddock’s caches of firearms in his hotel room and retirement home 80 miles away in Mesquite, Nevada, investigators are having a hard time piecing together a motive.
This was because Paddock had no criminal record and was by all accounts a good citizen (albeit a heavy casino gambler).
That he was able to smuggle firearms into his hotel room over several days came as a shock to his brother, who pointed out that Paddock had no military background and was “not a gun guy.”
Moreover, he had no known association with any terrorist group. The Islamic State’s claim that Paddock was one of its fighters is laughable, as is his supposed nom de guerre – “Abu Abdel Bar al-Amriki” or “The American.”
The international jihadist group was just as quick to claim credit for a mass shooting in the Philippines in June, when sacked government employee Jessie Javier Carlos attacked Resorts World Manila. The claim was quickly disproved. Like the Vegas attack, the Resorts World shooting was carried out by a lone wolf.
The parallel between Las Vegas and Resorts World Manila ends there, however. The latter was a case of criminal negligence due to a poor security setup at the hotel casino. The Vegas strip massacre was, according to security experts, unpredictable as it was unpreventable.
Paddock, it should be noted, used at least one fully automatic rifle, which is banned in the US. At any rate, he had modified semiautomatic weapons, which were easier to acquire.
National Review writer David French notes how “very, very strange” the Vegas shooting was: “So, a person who’s ‘not a gun guy’ has either expended untold thousands of dollars to legally purchase fully-automatic weapons, somehow found them on the black market, or purchased and substantially modified multiple semi-automatic weapons – and did so with enough competence to create a sustained rate of fire.”
“This same person also spent substantial sums purchasing just the right hotel room to maximize casualties. I cannot think of a single other mass shooter who went to this level of expense and planning in the entire history of the United States,” he adds.
Security officials around the world should take the Vegas strip massacre as a reminder that determined attackers are real, and an opportunity to plug the security loopholes exploited by Paddock.
The public should also realize that such incidents are hard to prevent. Still, there is vigilance, a small effort that everyone can contribute to help neutralize lone-wolf attackers.