Alarming details of the unprecedented firepower possessed by Las Vegas massacre shooter Stephen Paddock are continuing to pour in this week, as authorities now fear he utilized a fully automatic machine gun.
On Monday evening, authorities uncovered 23 firearms Paddock had stockpiled in his Mandalay Bay resort room.
According to Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, some of the weapons, which ranged in caliber from the .223 associated with an AR-15-style rifle to the .308 associated with heavier tactical arms, had been converted from semi-automatic to fully automatic fire, though he said an investigation is still underway.
“The ATF hasn’t evaluated them yet. But I don’t know if the [firing] pins have been filed or converted to fully automatic,” Sheriff Lombardo told reporters in Las Vegas.
The mechanical altering of weaponry is illegal but easy to do if one knows guns well.
No matter the extent to which he was able to juice up his guns, and even if he bolstered them legally, serious questions have been raised as to how Paddock was able to obtain such devastating force.
Arguments surrounding gun control generally focus on semi-automatic assault rifles, which have been the weapon of choice for most mass shooters. Based on the gunfire heard in the tragic footage of the massacre, gun experts are still debating if the weapon was fully or semi-automatic.
“From the footage I saw, I could not determine conclusively [whether] it was a fully automatic weapon. It could have been something else that had a legal rapid-fire mechanism installed,” said Eileen Ferguson, owner of Carson Armory in Mound House, Nevada.
Ferguson says she sells three or four machine guns a year, on average, and that the approval process is cumbersome.
“Right now, that investigation takes anywhere between 6 and 12 months. And once that person is approved, they are issued a special tax stamp, which allows them to possess one individual machine gun,” said Mrs. Ferguson. “It’s not a blanket approval. It is an approval that happens every time a person attempts to purchase a machine gun.”
Officials are, thusly, concerned Paddock worked around this by simply converting an easier-to-obtain semi-automatic weapon.
The Washington Times notes that technologies have enabled gun owners to legally and often cheaply modify semi-automatic weapons to fire hundreds of rounds per minute.
A binary trigger fires a round when the trigger is pulled and when the trigger is released. Repeatedly pulling the trigger creates a spray of bullets.
Upgrade kits generally cost around $300 to $400.
A semi-automatic rifle upgraded with a bump fire stock uses the gun’s recoil to squeeze off shots in rapid succession. It costs $100 to $300.
A trigger crank can be attached to the trigger guard, rapidly pulling the trigger when the shooter turns the crank. Those can cost as little as $40.
“Semi-automatic is good enough — or worse enough,” said Tomer Israeli, a former Israeli Secret Service agent who runs a tactical shooting-training center in the Washington suburbs.
“It doesn’t have to be automatic to get results, and professionals know that automatic doesn’t get results sometimes. A semi-automatic can do a lot of damage,” he said.
Genghis Cohen, the owner of Machine Gun Vegas, said that without a doubt, the type of weapon he used aided Paddock in causing so much devastation.
“We believe, as we always have, that there should absolutely be more stringent control on the types of firearms,” the company said in a statement. “There were many factors contributing to this tragic event, but there is no doubt that the shooter’s ability to inflict so many casualties was heavily due to the types of weapons he had access to.”
New photos of one of the guns used by Paddock was leaked to the press Tuesday. You can see hit by clicking here.
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