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Here's How The FBI Should Investigate The Las Vegas Massacre

Instead of focusing on the why, focus on the how.

06/10/2017 10:50 AM AEDT | Updated 06/10/2017 10:50 AM AEDT
Drew Angerer via Getty Images
"Without the guns, Mr Paddock -- no matter how murderous his intentions -- would not have been able to murder more than a handful of people."

Following last weekend's massacre in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock, in which 58 people were murdered and 500 were injured, law enforcement agencies are devoting large resources to try to find out the causes of the mass murder.

According to The New York Times, baffled FBI agents are trying to reconstruct Mr Paddock's actions, including finding and interviewing "everyone and anyone who crossed his path in recent weeks". They seek to explain why a man with no evident criminal history became a mass murderer.

Law enforcement agencies are scouring the scene at which 10,000 bullets rained down on a crowded outdoor concert. They are painstakingly taking apart the hotel room from which the bullets were fired. They are searching, inch by inch, Mr Paddock's home and elsewhere. They are scouring electronic and paper files for anything about his life and activities.

Their task is made all the more difficult by the fact that, as a deputy director of the FBI said, the murderer was:

"... an individual who was not on our radar or anyone's radar prior to the event. So we really have a challenging bit of detective work to do here, to kind of put the pieces back together after the fact."

What is all of this very expensive activity for? It is being undertaken in an attempt to ascertain the causes of the massacre. If you asked the law enforcement agencies why they were doing this, they would regard it as a silly question.

If they bothered to answer it, they probably would say something like, "Well, as law enforcement agencies, it's our duty to find out the causes of the massacre, so we can try to make sure something like this never happens again".

Here's how the FBI and all the other law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation can save lots and lots of public money.

We already know the causes of the mass murder. There are two causes. First, Stephen Paddock decided to murder as many people as he possibly could by shooting into a crowded concert in Las Vegas.

Second, to carry out this plan, he effortlessly and legally was able to accumulate 47 guns. More than 20 of them were in the hotel suite from which he murdered the people below. There also were thousands of rounds of ammunition in the suite, apparently not including the 10,000 estimated bullets he shot into the crowd.

According to the Times, Mr Paddock had been buying guns since 1982, including 33 in the past year. Twelve of the guns found in his hotel suite were semi-automatic rifles. A gun like this fires every time the trigger is pulled. But several had been fitted with a cheap and legal device, called a 'bump stock', which harnesses a gun's recoil effectively to convert it into a machine gun that fires fast and continuously.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there was no Federal law requiring a seller of multiple semi-automatic rifles to report the sales to the Bureau, nor to anyone else.

Without the guns, Mr Paddock -- no matter how murderous his intentions -- would not have been able to murder more than a handful of people. With the guns, it was easy to translate his murderous intentions into mass murder.

Let's be clear about something. Guns like the semi-automatic rifles bought by Mr Paddock have only one use: To kill or maim people. Because they originally were military assault weapons, they are particularly good at both. They fire bullets designed to inflict either death or maximum damage on victims' bodies.

Now, if your job was to work out the causes of the massacre, with a view to making sure something like this never happened again, where would you devote your scarce resources?

To piecing together the strange life of an unpredictable man, never 'on anyone's radar', now dead, in the hope of being able to predict how similar but unknown and equally unpredictable people might behave in the future? And to make such predictions in time to prevent their murderous intent being translated into mass murder? That sounds like an almost hopeless quest.

Or, would you focus on the second cause of the massacre, without which it could not have happened, the easy and legal availability of weapons of mass murder? To people outside the United States, the question seems ridiculous. Of course you would devote your resources to dealing with the cause which is obvious and preventable.

There would be no need for deep psychological analysis; there would be no need for speculation about what drove the murderer; there would be no need for analysis of what might drive future murderers to commit mass murder; and there would be no need to try to find ways of trying to prevent future mass murderers from pulling the trigger.

Instead, there would be no need for anything but preventing the second cause of the massacre -- the availability of weapons of mass murder -- from leading to future massacres.

So, will the FBI announce soon that it has uncovered one of the causes of the Las Vegas massacre? And tell us that the cause was unfettered access to weapons of mass murder? And also tell us that all that has to be done to prevent future mass murders is to stop the sale of weapons of mass murder and to make possession of them illegal except by the police and the military?

Sadly and predictably, we all know the answer to this question: The FBI will say no such thing. Instead, politicians such as Republican leader Mitch McConnell will say that it is "premature" to talk about gun control because "we're in the middle of an investigation" and that his priority was tax reform. (Does he think, perhaps, that the investigation, when concluded, will reveal that guns were not the cause of the massacre?)

And other politicians, such as President Trump, will utter platitudinous nonsense such as:

"Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today -- and always will, forever."

The sad truths are that we already know the cause of the Las Vegas mass murder, and we already know that it will be the cause of future mass murders.

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