Motive and Opportunity for the Las Vegas Massacre

The reason I am known as @WriterRocky on Twitter is because I write detective novels, when I’m not producing freelance articles for The Resurgent. Writing a novel is not as easy as it may sound — well, writing a good novel is difficult, for sure.

I’m always having to create plausible, interesting, and unusual criminal behavior in my mind, and thinking hard is hard work. However, it would be boring to have my heroes solve mundane robberies and murders. It would be tough for me to write an interesting novel where the killer was caught red-handed, at the scene of the crime, in the very first chapter.

So I have to do lots of research and think long and hard to dream up interesting and usual crimes, perpetrators, victims, heroes, and most importantly, motives for the crimes. Otherwise, my novels would be very boring. However, as the old expression goes, truth is even stranger than fiction. It’s certainly much easier to write. This is one of those rare occasions when my “other” job proves to be helpful in writing this article.

In this tragedy that just took place in Las Vegas, why did Stephen Paddock spray bullets into a crowd of people he didn’t even know? What possible motive could he have for committing mass murder? We always need to identify the most logical explanations, but we really can’t rule out any possibility until all the facts have been assembled.

My most recent novel involved illegal-arms dealers and drug smugglers, yet strangely enough, in all my research about military weapons, I’d never heard of this gadget called a “bump stock” until this morning, which just proves that you really can learn something new every day.

Predictably, less than 24 hours after the massacre in Las Vegas, liberals had already decided that the solution to the problem required tougher gun laws. A few even went as far as suggesting anyone who opposed gun control deserved to be killed. In their utopian view, all of our problems will be solved by “gun control” through amending the Constitution. The NRA are always blamed when people are shot, long before we know the real motive.

In her rush to score a political point, Hillary Clinton launched a bizarre attack the NRA over the issue of sound suppressors (which she apparently calls “silencers” because in the movies, guns make a barely audible “poof” sound), which are not exactly silent. Besides, the only gun related issue that might warrant legislation are these bump stock devices, which ought to be illegal if they aren’t already.

If you’re going to try to score a political point, make sure it’s a valid one.

Advocates for the preservation of our 2nd Amendment rights don’t see as an argument between people with the good intention of reducing violence, because removing guns won’t stop people from committing murder. It will just stop them from killing people with guns. After liberal Hollywood actor Kumail tweeted that “In Marseille a man with a knife killed 2 people. In Vegas a man with a gun killed 58. You don’t even have to do math.” conservative pundit Ben Shapiro came back with this reply:

Liberals tend to see guns and conservatives as the root cause of all evil.  Conservatives perceive liberalism and terrorism to be the main problems faced by modern society. They can’t both be right, of course.

The possible options of motive for a man willing and able to plan and execute the slaughter of dozens of people he’d never met would seem to be somewhat limited. Insanity is clearly one rather obvious possibility, and it would seem that anyone capable of doing such a thing would have to be at least a little bit crazy. But can we really assume that a person capable of committing such a callous act of violence is only crazy, and nothing more?

This details of this crime that are currently known suggest some serious planning and forethought was involved. The killer chose an ideal location for his attack, from which a maximum number of targets could be easily mowed down with bullets. People didn’t realize they were under fire, because the venue was a loud concert.

Murdering innocent people you’ve never met and have never harmed you does seem like an act of a madman. Could an insane person execute such a crime after meticulous planning and forethought? It is possible. Remember the heavily-armed lunatic who riddled the audience of a Batman movie with bullets was sane enough to wear body armor, in case somebody shot back.

Insanity definitely cannot be ruled, but what are the other possibilities? Is insanity the only possibility? No, of course not. At least two other potential reasons deserve equal consideration.

The first of these other possibilities is the easier of the two to sell to the general public: terrorism. ISIS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, asserting that Stephen Paddock had converted to Islam several months prior to the attack.

Months before the attack ISIS apparently released a video suggesting that Las Vegas and San Francisco were two designated targets for a future terrorist attack. Another obvious question: why anyone would want to take credit for something they didn’t do? Mass murder in the name of their evil god is frankly beyond my comprehension, but ISIS have taken credit for the Las Vegas massacre.

We also know that historically ISIS have a perfect track record when it comes to making claims about terrorist attacks that can ultimately be attributed to them. They might be ruthless, evil, murderous religious fanatics, but we have no reason to accuse them of lying about this.

Even though the FBI has already declared there isn’t a known motive or connection to ISIS, it makes no sense for them to rule out the possibility. It doesn’t seem prudent to rule out terrorism as a motive for the worst mass murder in American history less than 24 hours after it happened, as Rush Limbaugh noted on his show yesterday, especially since these same people haven’t been able to rule out Russian interference in the last presidential election after a full year of investigation without finding any evidence.

Some news articles have already tried to connect the dots, suggesting that Stephen Paddock was a former accountant and might have been bitter about his excessive gambling losses, but the biggest problem with that theory is that Paddock didn’t attack the casino. If you’re mad about losing all your money on foolish bets, why wouldn’t your anger be directed at the people who have your money? Instead, Paddock raked the crowd outside the hotel at the music festival with bullets.

Given the planning involved (ideal location, easy target, multiple weapons, shooting platforms, cameras, etc.) terrorism actually seems like a very smart bet, especially considering the fact that a terror attack had taken place in Canada only 24 hours earlier. It’s difficult to believe that the timing could be sheer coincidence. It also seems odd that a man not known for being a passionate gun owner or radical right-wing extremist is found 23 weapons in the hotel room with him. It’s suspicious that a man who allegedly knew very little about firearms knew enough to know that a “bump stock” converts a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic machine-gun that can spray a full magazine of bullets with one pull of the trigger. More guns and explosives were found in his home.

Eventually the police will be able sort out the details and determine whether all of the weapons involved were purchased legally, and from where they were bought. A third possible explanation for the Las Vegas massacre will be ridiculed by anyone who doesn’t believe in a supernatural God: demonic possession would also easily explain the behavior of Stephen Paddock. An evil, murderous rage seems to have possessed this man.

In an interview, a younger brother claimed that Stephen was neither religious nor motivated by politics, but his description of their relationship also suggested the two brothers weren’t particularly close and didn’t speak to each other very often. Maybe the only thing on which everyone might agree is that Stephen Paddock certainly didn’t love the people he gunned down in cold blood.

Here’s the weird thing — I don’t hate Stephen Paddock. In fact, I feel a twinge of sympathy for his soul, because I’m fairly sure he’s burning in hell right now. But I can’t really describe my feelings about Hitler or Osama bin Laden as hate, either. I pity them.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad Stephen Paddock, Hitler, and Osama bin Laden are dead. Had he been captured instead of killed, I would have supported the death penalty. But when you believe in hell and have a vague concept of eternity, it isn’t something you’d wish on anybody. A friend of mine claims he went to hell and came back after being shot in the head with an Uzi, and he was just an innocent bystander, minding his own business when he got shot. If hell is half as bad as he described, nobody will want to go there.

My mind is clouded by doubts, and disturbing thoughts. The only words of wisdom that seem appropriate at the moment for us to ponder come from someone much smarter, more loving, and forgiving than I could ever be:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Those were the last words of Jesus, just before he died on the cross. For our sins.

About the author

John Leonard

John lives in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, GA with his wife Lisa, two dogs and an antisocial cat.

His detective novels are published under the pseudonym Rocky Leonard, while his nonfiction writings may be found here at The Resurgent, or his personal website, depending on the subject.

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