On Sunday, 64-year-old retired accountant, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of 20,000 people at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas. The incident, which has so far claimed the lives of 60 people, including Paddock himself, is now the deadliest mass shooting in the United States.
Paddock chaotically fired at the crowd without discrimination from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort and casino, turning the festival into a battleground. The innocent music fans initially mistook the gun shots for fireworks, before scrambling for safety. When police breached the hotel room, after Paddock had shot through the door and injured a hotel security guard, they discovered 23 weapons that investigators currently believe were purchased legally. His motives for the attack remain unclear, as he has no history of mental illness or violence. The weapons are believed to have been transported to the hotel via 10 suitcases, enabling Paddock, a known gambler, to check in without raising any suspicion. The weapons included assault rifles, such as an AR-15-style and AK-47-style rifles, which were found mounted onto tripods and equipped with telescopic sights. Some of the rifles were found to have been modified in order to convert them into automatic machine guns, with two semi-automatic guns modded to allow Paddock to effortlessly open fire with his finger resting on the trigger. Gun laws in the US are notoriously relaxed compared to other western cultured like the UK, with the Second Amendment stating that it is a fundamental right of the American people to keep and bear arms. Each state has varying restrictions on carrying guns, with Nevada having some of the weakest, allowing citizens to openly carry a gun without a permit or license – which is also legal in 31 other states. Paddock was not known to the police in any capacity. His local gun dealer also had no concerns about the shooter: “He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time,” said Mesquite store, Guns and Guitars. Another gun store, 40 minutes away from his home, also sold Paddock rifles after he passed a federal background check. However, authorities were in for a shock when they made further inquiries at his home, in a retirement complex in Nevada, and the trunk of his car. Authorities carried out a thorough search on Paddock’s property in Mesquite, Nevada, where they found a further 19 firearms, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Also recovered were “electronic devices” that are still being investigated. Further to that discovery, investigators also found ammonium nitrate in his car. The chemical compound is often used in explosives and was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City truck bombing which killed 168 people. Speaking to CNN, Paddock’s younger brother, Eric made it clear that he didn’t know his brother was capable of something so atrocious. He knew his brother owned firearms, and had even allowed his children to go skeet-shooting with their uncle, but he didn’t consider Paddock a hunter. Eric told reporters that his brother was “a wealthy guy” who often indulged in cruises and online gambling. Exasperated and “dumbstruck”, Eric said how his brother would send giant boxes of cookies to their mother, and had only recently bought her a walker because she was struggling with her mobility. The brothers had last communicated after Hurricane Irma, when Stephen contacted Eric to enquire about their mother’s wellbeing. Eric made it clear that he was clueless as to his brother’s motives, highlighting that he had no criminal record, political affiliation or mental illness, “that I know of”, he stressed to add. Former neighbours at Paddock’s home in Melbourne, Florida, echoed Eric’s shock, with one telling CNN: “If there was any impression, I would say, guy had no idea what a gun was.” The neighbour stated that Paddock never stayed at the house very long, sometimes with, sometimes without, his girlfriend and told how they would often be “up all night” gambling. Whilst investigations continue, the names and faces of Paddock’s victims begin to emerge. Including off-duty police officer, Charleston Hartfield, who was enjoying the festival when he tragically lost his life… We send our prayers and best wishes to the city of Las Vegas, and for all of those affected by this abhorrent tragedy.
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