Las Vegas: No Conspiracy

Until now a broken wrist has kept me from giving my opinion on the Las Vegas shooting. I’ve also kept my distance from the subject at least in large part because I believe that the agencies involved needed some time to sort through the facts.

Consider, if you will, what it might be like to be working on a calculus problem – something that requires a lot of thought and focus – and have a two-year-old interrupt you every five seconds with inane questions. If you can envision that, then you can envision exactly what the Las Vegas police have been going through since the day of shooting. The media has been all over this. While they have been doing their job, they have also been contributing to the confusion.

Every network tries to get an exclusive, and then share that exclusive with the public irrespective of whether it may actually be true or conflict with what the Las Vegas police have discovered. And of course what is perceived as a lack of transparency is more likely just complexity at work. Sort of like trying to pick up 10,000 Skittles on a basketball court and sort them by color while 3rd graders play kickball around you. The Las Vegas PD has been doing just that kind of job. Doing countless interviews, collecting countless bits of data and crime scene material, and evaluating video shot from about 300 different angles.

You probably also seen where many of the people who had their phones confiscated by the police and FBI received their phones back and they’re without the videos. Someone is trying to spin this into a conspiracy. It is not a conspiracy, it’s simply an attempt to keep stupid people from sharing senselessly stupid graphic evidence foolishly or in a way that ultimately harms the outcome of the investigation. Investigations require careful calm scientific and procedurally correct methods. They can’t be rushed. But when they are they also can be screwed up. Take for example the infamous Olympic bombing. One of the reasons Mr. Rudolf got away with it for so long was that a security guard was erroneously blamed for it and had a long road back trying to reclaim his reputation. The fog of war often causes police to focus on any solution and not always the right one.

On Steve Sheldon takes a very cerebral approach to the subject, suggesting conspiracy theorists ask each other 8 tough questions. Most are spot on, but #8 leaves me certain that Steve needs an education in firearms. He asks:

  1. Why is it necessary that the shooter have military or law enforcement experience to do what he did?

Steve seems to think that semiautomatic firearms require very little training. That has certainly not been my experience. In the army we were taught the basics of the M-16 (the forerunner of the AR 15), over the course of about two weeks. We learned how to take it apart and put it back together. We learn how to clean. Only then did we learn how to operate it. And that instruction was done with one or two bullets at a time. On the range we were never allowed to fire the weapon on full auto. Although our weapons would operate on full auto, we were told that we be court-martialed if we made that mistake. Later, in training in the Republic of Korea, I did get to fire the M-16 in full automatic mode. I will simply say that is a great deal different than trying to fire the weapon on semiautomatic. The very same recoil that fuels the automatic weapon, also causes the weapon to rise off target. That’s why we were taught to fire three or four around bursts, not simply hold down the trigger.

The idea that someone could go out into the desert and in three or four months learn how to control an AR 15 on full automatic is simply ridiculous. Fully automatic fire reduces accuracy. The only thing it is good for is spray and pray. In other words if you are not a good shot, and you have lots of targets, then you can hit lots of targets in lots of places, but you can never be assured of lethality. Had Paddock known fully what he was doing, he would have fired only on semi-auto, and used a sight to improve his accuracy. But lethality was not his goal: terror was.

Then there is the issue of magazines, magazine changes, and the ability to continue to fire, large numbers of rounds. To date no one in the Las Vegas police department or the FBI have announced how many rounds were fired by Mr. Paddock. We simply do not know. It could be 200, it could be 500, it could be more, but we don’t know. Assuming that he had 30 round magazines, and assuming that he taped them together top to bottom, he would have had 60 rounds available that he could have fired in probably less than a minute given magazine changes. He would have fired 30 rounds, the bolt would have kicked open, he would’ve had to hit the magazine release, pull out the empty magazine, slam in the new magazine, and again hit the bolt release. All of this takes time. When a person is first learning to use a rifle it sometimes takes 30 seconds to master this. With training you can get this time down to a matter of seconds. Listening to the audio of the shooting, magazine changes were done with exceptional speed. This would indicate either a great deal of training or a great deal of practice or both.

There is a reason why Paddock had so many firearms in his room. He realized that even well-maintained semi automatic weapons jam, and stop firing. Nothing has yet been released on the status of firearms found, but it is reasonable to assume that several of them stopped working during the massacre. This is reasonable because firing the weapon so quickly would have caused extreme heat in the barrel, and likely would have produced jamming. Only an individual who was familiar with the unique characteristics of semi automatic weapons would understand the necessity to keep more than one semi automatic rifle in the room if you were going to fire on what was essentially full automatic. You’d need several weapons.

You’d also need to have numerous magazines preloaded. You need to have them taped together so as to make it easy to change them quickly. You would need to have a way to move from firearm to firearm when one or more of them became inoperative. For a guy who was not known to be a “gun guy“ it seems obvious that he had some kind of training. Where that training took place, who did it, and how much practice he had before the event we may never know. But it simply is not possible for him to have watched YouTube videos, gone into the desert, and figured this all out on his own. I realized the guy was smart, and a CPA, but that’s not the kind of background that prepares you to be a mass murderer.  I believe he did have training, but I also believe it wasn’t competent training, and that there is no tie to the government of the USA.

For the record, if there is a conspiracy, and if there is a cover-up, it is designed to protect property interests in Las Vegas. It is being done at the request of the casinos. It is being done so as to get this out of the news as quickly as possible, so that the gamblers come back as quickly as possible. Someone once observed that you should never attribute to malevolence that which is more properly attributed to incompetence.  Or, in this case, greed.

I do not wish to assert that the Las Vegas PD is in incompetent. But neither are they distinguishing themselves in this investigation. That does not mean there is a conspiracy. But I believe that if there are problems here, they relate almost exclusively to trying to conduct a major investigation inside the media fishbowl. The truth will eventually come out. When it does we may find a motive, and we may not. But one thing is sure: the evil that was Mr. Paddock is no longer with us.



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