If you thought for one second that the testing of a ballistic missile or the civil war in Syria or even the neo-Nazi march at Charlottesville were the biggest problems facing Donald Trump, you’d be wrong. The biggest problem he has to deal with is what to say and do about the shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas, which set an all-time record for the number of people killed and wounded by a mass shooter in the United States.
Trump already began sliding past this event by offering condolences to the “victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting,” but for a guy who opened his yap last year, insisting that an “armed citizen” could have stopped the shooting attacks in Orlando and Paris among other places, all of a sudden he’s not saying anything about guns. The fact that the Las Vegas shooter was evidently using a full-auto machine gun (at least this is what the gun sounded like in the video I watched, but this has not yet been officially confirmed) will make it easier for the President to align himself with ‘responsible’ gun owners, if only because even the NRA has yet to endorse the idea of legalizing the ownership of full-auto guns.
Except machine guns are legal, as long as you pay a $200 tax for each one you own, submit to a background check by the ATF and get a state license for owning automatic weapons if you happen to live in a state which requires such a license, which many states do not. The ATF says that as of February 2015, there were more than 500,000 machine guns registered in the United States, of which nearly 9,000 can be found in Nevada alone.
What do we know about the shooter and why he had been camping out at the Mandalay Bay hotel since September 28, having taken at least 10 weapons into his room? Other than his name (Stephen Paddock) his age (64) and the fact that he was a resident of Mesquite, NV, we don’t know anything at all. And this is the problem not just with mass shooters, but almost everyone who pulls out a gun, namely, there’s really no warning, no particular type of behavior which can alert us to the possibility that an individual is about ready to murder himself or someone else by using a gun. And while everyone goes on and on about expanding background checks, for example, to keep guns out of the “wrong hands,” the Las Vegas shooter seemingly had no significant or even insignificant connection to the cops at all.
Remember Charles Whitman? He’s the ex-Marine who climbed to the top of the Texas Tower on August 1, 1966 and committed what we consider to be the first mass shooting and until yesterday, the only other mass shooting that was done sniper-style, rather than by walking into a classroom, a movie theater or a nightclub and blasting away. Before he went to the university campus and set up shop, Whitman killed his mother in her house, then stopped back at his own house and killed his wife. Know what Whitman and his wife did the afternoon before he went nuts? They entertained several close friends, none of whom thought anything was wrong.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo of Clark County says the investigation into Paddock’s background will be very “tedious” and will take time. I don’t want to sound arrogant but the only thing we ever learned from the detailed investigations after Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Columbine was that the shooters were all able to get their hands on guns. They couldn’t have committed those extreme acts of violence any other way.
Mike Weisser is the author of the new book, Sandy Hook: A Man Sold A Gun.