It looks more and more likely the gunman, 64-year old Stephen Paddock, used a semi-automatic weapon modified to function almost as a fully automatic machine gun as he shot at a crowd at an outdoor concert across the street from his hotel room. Police recovered 23 guns from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay room. (Which also raises the question of how he got them up there.)
The AP reports law enforcement officials say they found a device called a “bump-stock”, which is touted as “an aftermarket accessory that enables semiautomatic rifle owners to replicate fully automatic fire — while escaping federal restrictions on machine guns“. The sale of new fully automatic weapons, or machine guns, has been banned since 1986.
Now, we want to be very careful here, because there is no definitive proof a “bump-stock” was used, but the company that makes them has a couple of terrifying YouTube videos that we are sharing just as an example of what’s possible at the $99 price point.
While we unfortunately don’t believe the massacre in Las Vegas will lead to comprehensive gun control legislation, we do believe there’s a strong likelihood Congress will at least look into prohibiting the sale of “bump-stocks” if they are found to have been employed in this attack. (Of course, sales are likely to go through the roof in the meantime). They might also drop legislation deregulating silencers and making concealed carry permits valid across state lines. (More likely, they’ll just put that vote off for a few months.)
The New York Times has a detailed analysis of the rapid fire assault (including audio which you can listen to, or not) which partly explains what made the attack so deadly. Here’s some video from the Times as well:
Another reason fatalities and casualties are so high: concert goers hit the deck as soon as they heard shots, which would’ve been the right thing to do if the shooter had been among them on the ground, but since the attack was coming from above, made them more vulnerable.
As of publication of this newsletter, 59 are confirmed dead, 527 injured, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
There were a lot of words written about who 64-year old Stephen Paddock was, but little suggesting why he might’ve done it. Nothing close to a definitive (or even reasonably plausible) motive. At least not that we saw.
Editorial: We Now Live In A Country Where Mass Shootings Are News Because They Are Spectacle, Not Because They Are Surprising
A colleague of ours points out, we, as a country are worse than we were two days ago, and with each armed attack we grow worse still, with no relief in sight. As Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker writes, politicians’ response to mass shootings has become completely ritualized.
That cycle of deflection seems to be accelerating with each shooting. This time, in one single day we went through all the phases of a debate that used to take weeks or months, with the rationalizations and results being the same:
- Thoughts and prayers.
- Now’s not the time for a gun debate.
- Democrats: “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something!”
- Republicans: Democrats are “beyond disgusting” to politicize the massacre.
- Moment of silence.
- Look at Chicago! Strict gun control! High violence! Obviously not the answer!
- Lower flags to half staff
- “Pure Evil” is to blame. And evil can’t be controlled.
- End of discussion.
Until the next shooting…
Can The President Remain “Presidential” Through This Delicate, Tragic Week?
Day One of the Las Vegas tragedy showed us sober Trump. A call for unity. No Twitter activity for hours after an initial Tweet of support of the victims. But we all know these things can be fleeting if the President comes under any kind of criticism. The New York Times tackles the tests ahead for Trump, and whether he’ll be able to maintain his composure.
Keep in mind Trump’s still visiting Puerto Rico today. Oh, yes. And then he’ll go to Las Vegas tomorrow.
This morning, as we were getting ready to publish, Trump delivered this:
Whether you view that Tweet as perplexing or uplifting, it does seem to push the President’s 24 largely angry Puerto Rico-related Tweets and Retweets of this past weekend into the distant past somehow. Maybe not for the people of Puerto Rico, where the President’s response to the plight of the U.S. territory is still raw. Especially for those whom Trump called “ingrates” and people who “want everything to be done for them“.
But we bet the President will get a pretty good response, especially now that he’s got General Buchanan on the job, who seems to have a vision of the reality of the situation, of the enormity of the task at hand, of the calamity faced by the people, and is at least adequately beginning to muster the resources to better things.
Still, It’s still a long road ahead…
We also wanted to call your attention to this photo essay from the New York Times depicting a “day-in-the-life” of Puerto Rico.
Keep His Cool For An Entire Week? No Way!
Trump refuses to understand part of being President means people are going to gripe about you sometimes, especially in trying times. Sometimes it’s something that needs to be said and heard. Sometimes it’s just blowing off steam. Sometimes it’s both. Either way, It’s a right Americans have, and not that many people around the world share. And it’s a right we take full advantage of. Heck, it’s a right Trump’s taken full advantage of when Tweeting about previous Presidents. Still does (as demonstrated in this Tweet from last weekend):
A Few Brief Items Of Note
• Facebook’s and Google’s algorithms for filtering fake news still appear very much to be a work in progress, as a false story misidentifying the Las Vegas shooter and calling him “Trump hating” showed up on Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, where people go to post notices that they’re OK. And comparable results from the notorious 4chan forum surfaced in Google’s “Top Stories”. Twitter encountered similar issues. The managing editor of Snopes.com says activity by trolls is “getting more polarized. There’s this mad scramble to paint the guy as a Democrat or a Republican, so they can cheer.” Separately, Bloomberg reports Facebook is hiring 1,000 actual people to review ads, after Facebook admitted selling ads during the 2016 campaign that turned out to be accounts affiliated with Russia.
• The Supreme Court today will hear arguments in a case that originated in Wisconsin, that will decide if partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional if it is extreme. So far, the Court has only overturned gerrymandered districts on the basis that they were drawn to be racially discriminatory.
• Great story in the New Yorker about health care, and whether Americans consider it a right. Even though it explicitly does not endorse “Medicare for all”, it is one of the most compelling arguments for “Medicare for all” (or at least letting people buy in to Medicaid) we’ve yet come across.