59 killed and more than 500 wounded in Las Vegas, after a gunman has opened fire on the people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The criminal, Stephen Paddock, used an automatic weapon to spray fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
Authored by Pierangelo Tendas, Marco Dell'Acqua, Bruno Circi
News are still running and the reasons behind such a criminal action are not yet clear – although some press sources claim, possibly unreliably and following a claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, that the perpetrator could have been a muslim convert. Nothing is official, and yet all mainstream media are already jumping to conclusions – the usual ones.
What do we know so far?
Mass murders like the one that took place today in Las Vegas, are always cause for hype, but if there’s something recent events such as this have taught us is never to jump to conclusions on the heat of the moment. Unfortunately gun control supporters seem to have skipped class that day.
Things that seemed mathematically certain at first, often turn out to be a whole different story: remember the false lead about the "one glove" of the Brussels airport bombing terrorists?
Media have jumped on the Las Vegas massacre bandwagon, often with bold claims whose main purpose is to help pushing a political agenda rather than to inform. Which is why we waited at least a few hours before giving any news.
Few facts are known with a degree of certainty right now:
- There have been 59 killed and more than 500 wounded, some of them because of the shots, while the majority because of the consequent caos; the shooter opened fire upon the Route 91 Harvest Festival from a room at the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
- The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was found dead – likely by a self-inflicted gunshot – when the Police entered the hotel room where he had been shooting from. A woman, Marilou Danley, was taken in by the LVPD for questioning and later released.
- Several genuine full-automatic weapons, along with some others illegally converted to full-auto or using "trigger cranks", were recovered in the room. Two different footages of the shooting, from two different positions – one at the concert site, one on the side of the hotel – record two different weapons, one with a very fast rate of fire, the other slower, but still full auto. This difference may be a camera "artifact" or an objective difference.
Full-automatic firearms in the United States of America
"But... in America you can buy machineguns at WalMart! That's what CNN says!"
Not really. Full-automatic firearms are not available "over-the-counter" in the United States. Under the provisions of the 1934 National Firearms Act, the private ownership of full-automatic firearms must be pre-emptively authorized at a federal level.
More specifically, any individual wishing to purchase a select-fire or full-automatic firearm (a.k.a. a "machinegun") must submit a fully compiled ATF Form 4 and pay a $200.00 tax stamp; processing times can vary from a minimum of six months up to a maximum of two years, and a separate form (or authorization request, depending from how you want to call it) must be submitted for each single machinegun an individual intends to purchase. The procedure must also be repeated anew if the machinegun, or machineguns, is/are transfered to another individual.
In case you're wondering, the same procedure applies to all Title II firearms, which is a series of items that includes sound suppressors, "Destructive Devices" (any firearm with a bore larger than .50-cal or that can launch an explosive or incendiary projectile, and their ammunition!), "Short-Barreled Rifles" (any rifle or carbine with a barrel shorter than 16 inches), "Short-Barreled Shotguns" (any shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18 inches and shorter than 26 inches overall) and "Any Other Weapons" (firearms disguised as other objects). Only the cost of the tax stamp varies.
Also, the Hughes Amendment to HR4332 banned select-fire or full-automatic guns (machineguns) manufactured after May, 1986 from ownership by private individuals, with the relevant licenses now being available only for corporate uses.
This means that only shooting ranges, private security or private military companies and those business entities that rent firearms to the movie industry have access to those, as well as the "Special Occupation Taxpayers" – such as manufacturers or dealers – whose business is normally to sell those firearms to local law enforcement.
As any firearms enthusiast in the United States will know, during the course of the years, this made the price of the so-called "transferable" machineguns (manufactured or imported and registered on the U.S. civilian market before May 1986) to skyrocket.
The cheaper ones, such as Madsen 1950 or Ingram MAC-10 sub-machineguns, can cost a handful of thousands of dollars – the rough equivalent of a small city car – depending from the conditions; other more desirable firearms such as World War II Sturmgewehrs or modern assault rifles will normally go for several tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars: on this link you can see the typical prices paid on a legal auction of Class III full-automatic firearms in the United States.
This makes the eventuality of Paddock's select-fire weaponry being legal extremely unlikely, if not outright impossible.
"When will you ever learn?"
How many more have to die, before you gun nuts realize that your firearms must be banned, for the safety of all?
The shooters' community and the shooting industry are sick and tired to hear the gun grabbers pose this question every damn time that a criminal or a terrorist gets his or her way. Of course, we could answer that, in Summer 2016, in Nice, some guy killed 86 and wounded 302 in five mere minutes with a 20-ton truck, not to mention the tens of thousands of lives lost on our roads and motorways every year. So, should we follow the road of disinformation paved by biased media and false journalism, we should likewise ask:
How many more have to die, before you realize that 20-tons trucks must be banned, for the safety of all?
How many more have to die, before you realize that individual ownership of cars must be banned, for the safety of all?
The awful truth, pure and simple, is that we are not going to "learn" that. It's just not going to happen.
Because mere tools can not be responsible for death and bloodshed: the responsibility is always only and solely up to individual who commits the murders.
Collective responsibility and collective punishment are something fitting for totalitarian dictatorships. In a democracy, responsibility is individual, and so is punishment – including the loss of rights and privileges. Plus, the fact that something can be dangerous or has a potential of being abused to commit evil acts not automatically exclude a legal use.
Very simply put, the shooters community – both in Europe and in the United States – will never and ever be willing to "discuss", "dialogue", "reach an agreement", or accept any limitation, let alone impose self-limitations, on our rights for the crimes of a handful of criminals, terrorists and madmen that are still a negligible minority if compared to the sheer number of gun owners worldwide.
Tragedies like the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay hotel shooting are difficult to avoid, gun ownership or not. But all the most important pages of history have been written in blood.
What's left to see is when we will learn from them.
A word is paramount for those who still believe that restrictive gun laws can protect us: laws against murder are already in place, and it's not like they ever stopped many would-be murderers at all.
What kind of delusional belief could lead to think that laws banning firearms would stop anybody bent on mass murder? That goes beyond our comprehension.
So, at least, let’s try to remark some teachings out of this horrible bloody deed...
1. ADVANCED WARNINGS AND “INDEFENSIBLE” SITUATIONS
LVPD forces were already alerted because of a propagandist video where ISIS representatives called for attacks on infidel targets. The strip was among the places featured in the video. They responded promptly, within a few minutes.
Unfortunately, an active shooter spraying bullets in a massed crowd of twenty thousand people can do an appalling lot of damage in such a short time.
Every mass murder in history taught us this same lesson: unless already on the spot, Police forces can do little more than a body count, even when the attacker is armed with little more than a knife.
Yet politicians still claim that there's no need for citizens to carry arms as the State will protect them. Anyone making such a claim today is either blatantly lying, or delusional to the point that compulsory internment would be advisable.
Previous events like this always demonstrated that getting down on the ground is not a good idea. People laying on the ground were taken out one by one by active shooters in most occasions, from the infamous Columbine High School massacre onwards.
Those who were more likely to get to safety were those who ran and didn't stop until they were a whole lotta fu*k away from danger. Yet still we hear about laying down as one of the advices given by many media in case of an active shooter!
This is a particularly unhealthy idea when someone is shooting from an elevated position. But of course, no one at the concert had been able to realize the source of the shots… till everything was over.
In case of an active shooter, run like hell and look for a cover, if available. Run until you can keep it on and you are as far from the shooter(s) as you can reach. A moving target is pretty hard to hit even for experienced shooters. Your chances of survival are far, far higher if you keep moving.
3. KNOWLEDGE AND PREPARATION
The last lesson is for us, who like to believe a gun will keep us safe like some sort of magic “lethal problem solver”. The shooter in Las Vegas knew he was about to act in a state where a lot of people carry guns, so he gained tactical advantage through elevation, fortifying his position to avoid being taken by surprise and getting a significant ballistic advantage on his intended targets.
Even if dozens of people at the concert had been carrying handguns, no one would have stood a chance against a shooter armed with a rifle, over 350 yards away, on an elevated position, even if he was clearly visible (which he was not, but for the occasional muzzle flashes).
Self-defense goes far beyond carrying a gun and being able to use it responsibly and effectively “in standard situations”.
It is about knowing how to recognize danger – that means: understanding “immediately” what’s going on and the source of the danger, avoiding the state of denial our brain is prone to fall into when confronted with the unthinkable (“this can't be happening”, but it is) and taking the appropriate course of action that will enable us and our loved ones to get to safety.
This kind of preparation cannot be improvised: extended training from a reputable instructor is required.
Preparation can save your life allowing you to detect the danger even before all hell gets loose (remember the two veterans who stopped an attacker on a train when they recognized the sound of an AK rifle being cocked?), and to make your chances to get out alive a lot better if it does.
A lot of people sadly aren't allowed to carry guns anyway in most of Europe, for example, so being capable of detecting in advance a potential threat is your best line of defense. Best even if armed, as action almost always trumps reaction and, as this attack or those made with trucks in some countries have shown, not always a handgun is enough to solve the problem.
All this can't guarantee you'll make it: a lot of very well-trained people did everything right and still are no longer among us out of sheer bad luck, but you can help your luck a lot learning from such tragedies.
We can no longer indulge ourselves in the conviction we live in a safe environment. And while on one hand we have statistics showing us that there's no reason to get paranoid, as the chances we end up in a terrorist attack are less than one in a million, on the other hand… remember that when you are that one chance in a million, all statistics boil down to one in one for you, and being prepared to deal with such circumstances can make the difference between life and death.
Hope for the best, but always prepare for the worst!
Stephen Paddock was perfectly aware to be in a State - Nevada - enjoying liberal gun and carry laws, a situation which would have made a Bataclan-style head-on attack to the concert absolutely impossible for him. That's why Stephen Paddock chose the way of the coward and sprayed fire upon the crowd from behind a window, from a long distance.
If anything, that's an evidence of how legal gun ownership and carry can save lives. Only when they fall in the hands of evil or deranged persons do they become dangerous.
In the end, everything reduces to a single consideration: laws, particularly restrictive laws, can not protect us.
Both in Europe and in the United States, the conversion of firearms to full-auto and murder are illegal. Did that save one single life, ever?
If right now, somewhere in the world, a man or a woman is willing to slaughter dozens of innocents and is getting ready to act out, the sheer idea that restrictive gun laws could stop the massacre is nothing short of insane.
Nothing else matters.