The Vegas Shooting: Death in the Information Age

Welcome back to the Scuttlebutt.

My original intent for this week’s column was to discuss and review the movie I watched with my wife and friends on Friday night.  Men make plans and Loki laughs.  


In the aftermath of Sunday night, I hesitate to even say the name of the movie, it’s in such sudden poor taste.  Suffice it to say, there were as many errors in the movie as in the events of Sunday night.  It’s OK, but stupidly wrong in several places. I give it a C+, mindless popcorn flick.  (American Assassin)


So, let’s talk about that 800-lb. gorilla in the room.  The Las Vegas shooting.  First, let’s talk about the guy himself.


Look, the difference between writing fiction (which I do) and the real world? Fiction must make sense.  If I wrote a plot line as bazar as this, people would throw my book across the room.  I know, I’ve done that a few times, to books with plot lines this weird.  Note to the management, we need to talk to the great Author of the Universe about this shit…


Here’s a guy that’s cleaner than the driven snow, at least as far as anyone has found so far, and they’re digging HARD to try to find something.  And this isn’t just some “poof he snapped, went off and killed someone” shit.  There was severe planning involved. Cameras to watch his 6, multiple firearms in case one jammed (several did, more on that later) He had been in the place a full week before the shooting, making sure he got that particular suite.  The firearms had been there for at least 3 days at best guess, because he had the do not disturb sign up for that long.  So, he had planned this, maybe for some time.


Now here’s where the “information age” comes in.  We’ve been trained to expect virtually instantaneous answers to any question.  I can wonder “what’s the annual rainfall in western Patagonia” and as fast as I type it, I have an answer.   (61-100 mm each month for June to September, tapering off on both ends, and no rain from November through March) Then comes something like Vegas.  We have questions, no one has answers.  The press, feeling the need to keep eyes on their screens, so they can sell soap, start making shit up.  We hear about how many guns he had (like that matters, you can only shoot a maximum of two at a time).  We get told minutia about his brother, and how much he made, what his hobbies were etc.


None of these answers the question that is on everyone’s mind: Why the fuck would someone do this?  Then the tinfoil hat brigade starts in:

He never shot anyone, he was a patsy for the real shooters.

He was a CIA plant.

He was an FBI plant.  

It was a false flag operation to take the pressure off the relief efforts in P.R.

It was a Seal team hit.

There was another shooter (no doubt on the grassy knoll)

There were lots of other shooters.

It was a conservative trying to whack liberals.

It was a liberal trying to whack conservatives and get gun laws tightened up…

And more just too fucking weird for me to even remember.  


Outside of prisons, there are few places in the world more watched and surveillance camera equipped than a Vegas casino.  If there were other people involved there would be evidence, and someone would be singing by now… as a nation we suck at keeping secrets, especially ones as big as this would be.


What we do know is that the firearms he had were all bought legally, some of them in California, one of the hardest places in America to buy a gun.  He passed the background checks for all of that, and for a pilot’s license for pity’s sake.  We know that his live-in girlfriend was overseas at the time of the shooting, which lends some small amount of credence to the Radical Islam question, but not much, as she came back to the US today to talk to the police. (not exactly the behavior of a honey trap meant to convert an American to an Islamist killing machine) We also know that his pilot’s license lapsed (failure to take a physical, or something like that) and that he was fanatical about scrubbing his Email, search engines etc… Oh and we know he was fairly rich, with two airplanes, several houses, and lots of toys, in addition to a large gun collection.


Here’s the thing you don’t want to hear: We may never know why he did this. Unless the FBI or one of the other alphabet soup agencies can restore his computer data, or some other significant break comes up, the secret of why this guy decided to shoot up a concert may never be revealed. (which will further the tinfoil hats to the point of legend, much like the grassy knoll, and DB Cooper)  


All this just frustrates the hell out of all of us, but none more than the press and the politicians, so they do what they are always cocked and locked to do anyway.  They start talking about the guns.


Hillary stopped blaming everyone but herself for losing the election long enough to scream about how if the silencer bill had been enacted, the kills would have been much higher, because sound… This even before the bodies made it to room temperature.  


Now here’s the thing about that: This guy was shooting for 3 minutes before anyone realized that they were under fire.  Anyone that is except the people directly around the folks shot in the first volley.  How did this happen you ask? A .223/5.56 Nato round is about 140db at one yard from the muzzle. The concert was 400 yards from the muzzle, with several buildings around causing scattering loss.  By the time the sound got there it was about 92db due to spreading loss and reflection etc… the concert was about 140 db at the front of the stage.  You starting to get the picture?  No one could hear the shots over the band.  A suppressor would have lowered that sound level, at that distance by about 20db.  In short, not enough to not be able to hear it loud and clear once the band stopped.  On the other hand, if he had a suppressor on and was emptying magazines into the crowd in Full automatic, or with a bump-fire attachment, the weapon would have blown up in short order.  (suppressors don’t handle Full auto for more than a few rounds at a time very well due to the nature of how they work) So if the asshole had a suppressor he wouldn’t have gotten nearly as many shots off.


Nasty Pelosi started in almost immediately (though she at least had the class to wait for the bodies to cool) about that “bump fire” attachment, and how it needs to be made illegal.  We know that at least some of the rifles were equipped with one.  We know that they make a Semi-Automatic fire almost as fast as a F/A.  (we don’t know yet, if he had any rifles illegally converted to fire F/A, and no it’s not quite as easy as the gun control lobby would have you believe.)  


Here’s the problem.  Unless you practice a LOT, F/A is inherently inaccurate. Which is why military full autos use tracer rounds, so you can see where your bullets are going, and correct.  This bump fire rig makes a F/A look like a sniper weapon by comparison.  A shooter in even decent practice can put controlled shots from a Semi Auto into targets at the rate of about one a second to two a second if the targets are close together, and hit his target every time (at minute of body accuracy, meaning kill shot) The crowd he was shooting into was 20,000 strong, packed nearly cheek to jowl.  If he had been taking aimed shots, that means 120 to 240 people shot before the band stops the song and people outside the near vicinity of each target realize they’re under fire.  


The hospitals said they had treated or seen about 120 GSW (gunshot wounds) total. The rest of the injuries and deaths were from being stampeded by panicked people (I don’t blame them, they were in a pocket, under full auto fire, and most people have been trained by the media to believe that if someone is shooting at you, you’re dead, unless you’re the hero, who magically takes 8 shots to the torso and keeps coming)


We had 58 people and a dirtbag die in this shooting.  If he had not bought into the “magic” of Full Auto that the Media sings, we would have lost a lot more.  Also based upon the police reports I’ve seen, he had several of his rifles jam, which is why he had so many there.  Civilian rifles aren’t designed to dump a magazine in seconds flat. They jam.  If you haven’t been taught how to clear a jam, you’re out of action for a bit.  In Semi auto, they don’t normally jam.  Think about this.  It took somewhere between 11 and 30 minutes from the first call to the suicide of the shooter.  If he hadn’t been trying to use the shitty high cap magazines, (staying with the issue mags for the weapon) and the shitty bump-fire attachment, that’s anywhere from 660 to 3600 rounds, not counting time lost to reloading. (a second or three a magazine every thirty rounds)


“Well Lehman” you say, “that leaves us with only one alternative, illegalize the weapons entirely, or maybe if you’re lucky we’ll leave you single shots or something.”


Uh huh.  That worked so well in Mumbai 2016 (semi-automatics are illegal and all firearms are highly regulated in India the attackers used full auto weapons) It worked great in the Paris “Eagles of Death” concert attack in 2016 (117 dead, Full and semi auto weapons, and hand-grenades, all highly illegal) or the Paris 2015 attacks (bombs and guns, 130 dead) or… but you get the point, making guns illegal didn’t keep bad guys from getting them.


But let’s dive just a little further down this particular rabbit hole damn it, just to make sure you understand the problem.  Nice 2016; no guns, no illegal devices, instead the bad guy uses a 19-ton truck. 86 dead, 434 wounded.  Berlin 2016, again no illegal equipment, just a semi-tractor trailer rig, they got lucky, 19 dead 48 wounded.  Note that all of these are just in the last two years, there’s plenty more.


As I mentioned, this asshole in Vegas was a pilot who owned two aircraft.  Yes, his license was pulled.  News flash, the plane will start whether your license is valid or not.  If you’re planning to kill a shitload of people I don’t think getting a citation from the FAA is going to bother you much.  If he couldn’t get firearms, one of those planes full of avgas, possibly with a further load of avgas, Anfo (what McVeigh used on Oklahoma City) or an improvised Hyperbaric bomb in the passenger compartment, glided at a shallow angle into those 20 thousand people?


Yeah, it would have been a LOT worse.


I’m sorry folks but even if it were legal to do, illegalizing firearms won’t stop this.  It probably would start a revolution (last time the government tried to confiscate the arms of the people was at a couple of towns on the eastern seaboard, Lexington and Concord… remember how that turned out?) which no one with two braincells to rub together wants, but it wouldn’t stop this.  In most mass shooting situations, the best shot you’ve got is to shoot back.  I for one am not about to give that chance up.


No, it wouldn’t have helped in this case, few people carry around scoped rifles to concerts, and a handgun at those ranges is about as useful if you throw it at him.  All you would do is put rounds into other rooms in the hotel, increasing the casualty count. But this case is an anomaly in every way possible.


So, what’s the solution you ask?  Other than more security at huge outdoor events like this, (and I mean snipers on rooftops type security) I don’t think there is one.


Certainly, we can’t figure out how to have kept this from starting if we don’t know why it happened. All you can do is be aware, alert, watch, and watch out for, your fellow man, know where the exits are, and if you’re able, be prepared to protect yourself and others.


May the Gods bless and keep you,

I remain, yours in service,

William Lehman

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