Nineteen rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition were what greeted the SWAT team who arrived at Stephen Paddock’s room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort this past Sunday.
One of them was an AK-47 type-rifle with legal modifications that likely made it fully automatic. In the following days, when officers arrived at Paddock’s house, they found an additional 18 guns. The unassuming 64-year-old with no criminal record and no history of mental illness bought all the guns legally.
These weapons allowed Paddock to kill at least 59 people, while injuring another 527, either directly through gunshot wounds or indirectly in the panicked stampede that followed his attack on Sunday. The shooting lasted between ten and fifteen minutes, with witnesses reporting sustained bursts of fire and pauses as he likely switched between weapons.
As police approached, Paddock could watch their progress through cameras he had placed outside of his room. As they breached his door, the gunman took his life with a handgun.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, investigators are left only with questions and grief. Paddock’s motives are unclear.
According to his brother, Paddock had called after the 2016 Orlando shooting to check on his brother’s children. The 64-year-old was financially stable but had recently transferred a total of $160,000 over a period of weeks. In the days before the attack, he wired $100,000 to the Philippines for his girlfriend to use while abroad.
While ISIS claimed the attack, the FBI has found no connection between the New Mexico native and any hardline religious group or any other ideological organization.
President Trump has responded to the attack with tweets of support for victims and their families and will be visiting Las Vegas after he completes his trip to Puerto Rico. While Trump has been quick to praise first responders, he has said that now is not the time for a discussion about gun legislation. During his Las Vegas trip, he is widely expected to tip toe around the issue of gun control.
Other Republican leaders have been similarly silent on gun legislation, attempting to keep legislators focused on their plans for a massive tax overhaul. However, several Democrats have called for legislative action to address the increase in gun deaths over the past years. FBI statistics indicate that gun deaths have been rising steadily since 2014.
While few can understand the origins of the senseless violence that struck Las Vegas this past Sunday, many people have empathized with those who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Many Americans hope that this tragedy will be an opportunity for solidarity and a chance for citizens of all colors, creeds, and political leanings to come together. While America may be a divided country in many ways, Americans of all stripes can agree that violence like this must be stopped and support must be given to all victims.