WASHINGTON, October 2, 2017 — When television networks broke away from their regularly scheduled programming to cover the mass shooting in Las Vegas, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny observed, “A lot of these county music supporters were likely Trump supporters … This is something that of course is hitting the tapestry of all Americans, and there are going to be victims from the country here.”
It was a refreshing respite from the usual media talk of imposing draconian and unconstitutional gun restrictions, which only apply to the sane and law-abiding.
The assailant, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, shot and killed at least 58 people from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandaly Bay Resort and Casino. His shooting spree left at least 515 wounded. He then shot and killed himself.
In Paddock’s room, authorities found 19 rifles, two with mounted scopes and tripods located at separate windows, and at least 100 rounds of ammunition.
Eric Paddock, the shooter’s brother, said from his home in central Florida that Stephen was divorced and living at a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. He compounded the mystery surrounding a possible motive for the shooting by insisting to CNN that his brother did not have a criminal record or history of mental illness and was “a wealthy guy playing video poker on cruises” who had “nothing to do with any political organization, religious organization, no white supremacist, nothing, as far as I know. And I’ve only known him for 57 years.”
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying Paddock had recently converted to Islam to become “a soldier” for ISIS. An FBI spokesperson later insisted Paddock had “no connection with the international terrorist group.”
A gun store owner in Mesquite confirmed Paddock’s purchase of three firearms (a handgun and two rifles) a few months ago, and said that Paddock passed his criminal background check as required by federal law.
It remains a mystery as to where Paddock gained access to 16 additional weapons, some of which may have been fully automatic, able to fire as long as the weapon’s trigger is depressed. Under federal law, these arms require the owner to possess what is known as a National Firearms Act (NFA) Class III license.
Adding a dash of strangeness to the mystery, the shooter’s father, Benjamin Paddock, committed a series of bank robberies for which he was convicted and incarcerated in 1961.
When he later escaped the La Tuna federal prison in Vinton, Texas, he was placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list. In his wanted poster of 1969, under the category “caution,” the elder Paddock is described as having been “diagnosed as psychopathic … He reportedly has suicidal tendencies and should be considered armed and very dangerous.”
The apple, it appears, did not fall far from the tree.