Stephen Paddock fired on people attending an outdoor country music festival from a 32nd-floor hotel room in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino late on Oct. 1, killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 500. Videos show the chaos as people run and seek cover. Bursts of gunfire can be heard.
Details on the attack are still emerging, but according to Marc Ruskin, former FBI agent and author of “The Pretender: My Life Undercover for the FBI,” the sound of the gunfire strongly suggests Paddock was using an illegal weapon.
Ruskin said that going by the sounds in the recordings, it’s “unquestionable” that Paddock was using a fully automatic weapon.
“A full auto is very illegal, and to be in possession of one without a special federal license, it’s a major crime,” he said, adding that such licenses are very difficult to get, are given in very limited circumstances, “and I would be willing to bet big money he did not have a permit for that.”
Ruskin added that while details are still emerging, the sound of gunfire also suggests that Paddock “wasn’t picking people off like a sniper. It was too rapid for that.”
Police allegedly found 10 rifles in the hotel room where Paddock eventually killed himself. Several more weapons were found when police searched the killer’s home in Mesquite, which is about 82 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
“Having a full auto firearm without a license is a federal crime,” Ruskin said. “Adding new laws to what’s already a big crime is not gonna be a solution.”
The tragedy is now being politicized by groups that already had agendas regarding firearms. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on Twitter, “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots.
Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 2, 2017
Clinton was criticized for her comments. Talk show host and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch noted that “Suppressors only reduce by a few decibels, still same decibel level as a jackhammer.”
Alexander Muse, a conservative contributor at Fox and Bloomberg, said Clinton’s base claim also wasn’t true. He noted that had the shooter placed a suppressor on an automatic weapon, “If anything it would have slowed [him] down.” He published a video link showing an automatic weapon melt its suppressor and damage the gun’s barrel.
Furthermore, what you're claiming isn't true. If anything it would have slowed the shooter down. https://t.co/zjmUiipfJk
— Alexander Muse (@amuse) October 2, 2017
Ruskin said it’s common for tragedies to be exploited for politics, but noted, “politicizing in my view is an exploitation. In my view, it’s an almost unconscionable exploitation of a genuine mass tragedy.”
“I’m for punishing people who have illegal guns severely, but we already have laws in this regard,” he said.
According to Ruskin, gun laws do have their problems, but the main issue is that laws are often not properly enforced.
Ruskin said when he was working as a district attorney in Brooklyn, he frequently saw that judges wouldn’t fully punish gun crimes.
Under U.S. law, the punishments for such crimes are consecutive. A burglary, for example, could be a 10-year sentence, and if the criminal used a gun, it would add another 10-year sentence, adding up to 20 years. The structure of the sentencing is made to force criminals to think twice about using a gun to commit a crime.
But judges often don’t give consecutive sentences when it comes to gun crimes. Instead, according to Ruskin, they often make sentences run concurrently, where judges bundle the two 10-year sentences into a single sentence—the gun crime technically goes unpunished.
“The effect is it nullifies the law if they’re not going to be penalized for using the gun,” Ruskin said. “These laws already exist, they’re just not enforced.”
He said rather than trying to use tragedies as political platforms, it would be more constructive to look at practical safeguards—changes that could mitigate such tragedies, or mitigate the damage if something does take place.
Ruskin noted, for example, that in the case of the Las Vegas shooter, “this guy had a ton of equipment in his hotel room,” and if the hotels had security officers trained in active shooter operations, they would have likely noticed this.
“He would have had to make several trips from his car to his room, carrying big nylon bags filled with military equipment,” Ruskin said. “Casinos have very sophisticated video equipment. If they see a guy going back and forth carrying a big duffel bag, coming back empty-handed, then coming back again with another one, it should be enough for them to knock at the door.”
He added that had they witnessed the suspicious activity, they could have also called the police to investigate or called the FBI to take a look with discreet surveillance. “That could have been a tip-off if they were appropriately trained and looking out for things like that.”
Ruskin said, “had they been properly trained, they could have taken a more proactive stance, and had someone on their security detail been a bit sharper, there could have been 58 people who were still alive today.”