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Las Vegas Mass Shooting in 2017: The Causes

In every society, regardless of geographic location, and other aspects, some people are always ready to commit illegal actions. Despite all law enforcement agencies’ efforts, criminals still exist in any modern society. There are many reasons for this, from global economic to cultural and personal problems (Films Media Group, 2003). However, it is especially important to consider homicide as one of the most severe offenses among all crimes. Analysis of the prerequisites for the commission of murder allows preventing such behavior in the future. This work aims to investigate the causes of mass shootings using the example of an incident that occurred in Las Vegas in 2017.

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Criminology aims at the consideration of such cases and finding out the reasons for what happened. Using the methods of this science, it is possible to study both the personality of the offender himself and the conditions for the occurrence of a crime (Lilly et al., 2018). Many theories can be applied to such research, including biological/physiological, psychological, and sociological (Renzetti, 2008). In any case, the analysis should be carried out as objectively as possible in isolation from prejudices and concepts that may interfere with the delivery of the correct verdict. Besides, it is crucial to remember that any crime must be viewed in the cultural and social context of the place where it was committed (Lilly et al., 2018). Therefore, it is necessary to analyze all the details of the event that occurred, considering all possible aspects.

This event occurred on the night of October 1, 2017, in the Las Vegas Strip. At that moment, a large crowd of people gathered in front of the Luxor Las Vegas Hotel to participate in the Route 91 Harvest music festival. The perpetrator was only one person, a 64-year-old male Stephen Paddock from Nevada. The official motives for his actions are still unknown; however, the crime picture was recreated almost minute by minute with maximum detail (NBC News, 2019). First of all, the shooting itself started at about 10 p.m. from one of the rooms at Mandalay Bay Hotel. Paddock was located on the 32nd floor with an excellent view of the Strip and had dispatched numerous cases of weapons and ammunition there to provide himself with the ability to conduct continuous fire. Ultimately, the crowd of nearly 22,000 music fans was in full view of the criminal, allowing him to injure 413 people and kill 58 before committing suicide. It is especially worth noting the fact that in 11 minutes of shooting, the man was able to release more than 1000 cartridges while using semi-automatic rifles acquired legally.

Several factors contributed to this firing, the first of which is the extremely high density of the crowd. Secondly, the criminal used modified versions of the weapon, equipped with optical sights, bipods, and bump stocks, which made it possible to increase the rate of fire. Finally, the criminal was able to gain access to a luxury suite, and he was able to carry 23 pieces of weapons with ammunition, including high-power ones (Wallace & Loffi, 2017). With all this, Paddock itself has never had any problems with the law, except for driver’s fines. Thus, from a legal point of view, law enforcement agencies had no reason to suspect this person.

First of all, as mentioned earlier, the offender began to accumulate funds for his action in advance. The accumulation of weapons started about a year before the attack, and by October 1 had spent about $ 1.5 million on preparations, while distancing himself from his family (NBC News, 2019). The current legislation has not prevented such an act of collecting; moreover, in many societies, there are habits of carrying weapons. They are thus encouraged to buy and carry them, as it is believed that armed criminals can only be stopped by similarly armed citizens (Anderson et al., 2017). Plus, Paddock was a reasonably well-known gambler, especially video poker. Despite having a large number of debts, he paid them off shortly before the shooting. Being a regular customer at Mandalay Bay allowed him to get a suite and smuggle weapons there without suspicion.

Such a long preparation process went unnoticed by the official authorities due to the complete legality of the process. However, at the same time, there were mental prerequisites, personality problems, and alarming factors that could signal an increased likelihood of committing illegal actions. All people familiar with him noted his aggressive nature and tendency to find fault with even the smallest mistakes (NBC News, 2019). His characteristic feature is a lonely nature and a lack of religious or political interests. Besides, acquaintances note his depression and dissatisfaction with life, manifested in problems with relationships. Paddock even consulted a doctor about this but refused to accept a referral for antidepressants (NBC News, 2019). At the same time, the perpetrator showed clear signs of narcissism and an urgent need for independence.

When analyzing the consequences of such crimes, assumptions are often made about the presence of low self-esteem and mental problems that led a person to murder. However, Paddock did not exhibit these traits, so his desire to stand out in some way might motivate him to commit such a crime. Studies have shown that narcissism can indeed be a reason for performing illegal actions, and especially often, its elements are observed precisely in people who commit mass shootings (Bushman, 2017). Unlike problems with self-esteem and mental illness, which lead to chaotic murders, the actions of such massive plans must be carefully planned. Throughout his life, Paddock has demonstrated the ability to focus on the task at hand and focus his attention on the necessary details, as the FBI report shows (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2019). The man did not have many hobbies or any interests, but he devoted himself entirely to studying and preparing for this action. At the same time, no one except Paddock himself knew about the impending crime due to his closed nature.

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The factors described above highlight the features of the massacre and the man’s character that made this crime possible, ranging from legally acquired weapons to the ability to prepare a planned action meticulously. However, the above arguments do not answer why Paddock carried out his atrocity, and then committed suicide. In the modern world, crimes of this magnitude are often associated with the media with terrorist acts against a country or people. Official sources state that terrorism is illegal acts of violence committed by a non-state actor to achieve a political, economic, or social goal (Dolliver & Kearns, 2019). Despite such a definition, acts that are not entirely fit are often called terrorism. Even more often, a similar description arises if the person committing the murder belongs to Islam, thus maintaining a double standard regarding such cases (Elmasry & el-Nawawy, 2019). For example, a similar definition was quickly applied to an incident in New York in 2017, but no similar statements were seen towards Paddock.

Regardless of how exactly the event is called in the media, Nevada’s case cannot be called terrorism due to the absence of any clearly expressed purpose. The man simply prepared a mass shooting of innocent people, using the mass gathering only as an excuse to get the crowd under his sight. This is why the FBI investigation has come to a standstill, and the most frequently heard verdict is the killer’s lack of motive. However, there is one connection that could signal Paddock’s actual desire.

First of all, his desire to stand out, depressive thoughts, dissatisfaction with life, and narcissistic tendencies need to be remembered. These qualities are the key to understanding the situation, at the same time, supported by one crucial fact of his biography. Stephen Paddock’s father, Benjamin Paddock, was one of the most wanted criminals in the United States for eight years from 1969 until 1977. His arrest occurred when Stephen was seven years old, and thus he and his brothers grew up without the influence of the criminal. However, his father’s glory could be one of the factors that forced Paddock to commit the crime. Studies show that mass murderers are often inspired by similar mass shootings (Murray, 2017). Simultaneously, criminals do not copy each other’s style, but use stories, often disseminated through the media, as a source of inspiration for their crimes. Although Paddock did not associate himself with his father, his popularity could have pushed a man down this path.

Considering his depressed mood and the fact that the man started shooting and committed suicide afterward, it is logical to assume that the primary motivation for the offender was the desire to die. However, at the same time, he was prevented from simply killing himself by the narcissist’s tendencies and the desire to achieve something in this life. It was at this moment that the man could receive inspiration to perpetrate his crime. Perhaps, in addition to the stories about his father, Paddock was inspired by other mass shootings. However, the essence remains the same – the man wanted to die, gaining notoriety that would perpetuate his name in the history of America and the world. In a sense, he did succeed, as the Vegas shooting was the most massive one-person incident and only the second in the world after the disaster in the Utøya Island, Norway (Shultz et al., 2017). Paddock wanted to do as much damage as possible to make himself famous, no matter who gets hurt.

Thus, the Stephen Paddock case is one of the most egregious and scariest in American history. What makes him most terrible is his almost complete lack of motivation and disposition to commit such an action. While common killers often have pronounced mental problems, Paddock has not been diagnosed with any mental illness other than suspected depression. There were also no direct connections with any other criminals since the man had never been noticed in severe criminal activity. In this case, the Vegas massacre was a combination of many unimportant factors, from narcissistic tendencies and depression to possible inspiration from stories about a father. Ultimately, the most likely reason for the crime was the desire to die, gaining eternal notoriety. Unfortunately, despite the significant number of theories, it was almost impossible to analyze such behavior in advance and prevent this incident. However, the analysis of what happened allows taking measures to change the current legislation and develop new, comprehensive means of assessing a person’s mental state.

References

Anderson, J., Durham, D., Hultin, N., Gusterson, H., & Springwood, C. F. (2017). Gun owners, ethics, and the problem of evil: A response to the Las Vegas shooting. Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7(3), 39. Web.

Bushman, B. J. (2018). Narcissism, fame seeking, and mass shootings. American behavioral scientist, 62(2), 229-241. Web.

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Dolliver, M. J., & Kearns, E. M. (2019). Is It Terrorism?: Public Perceptions, Media, and Labeling the Las Vegas Shooting. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 1-19. Web.

Elmasry, M. H., & el-Nawawy, M. (2019). Can a non-Muslim Mass Shooter be a “Terrorist”?: A Comparative Content Analysis of the Las Vegas and Orlando Shootings. Journalism Practice, 1-17. Web.

Federal Bureau of Investigations. (2019). Key findings of the behavioral analysis unit’s Las Vegas Review Panel (LVRP). Public Intelligence. Web.

Films Media Group. (2003). The sociology of crime and deviance. Films On Demand.

Lilly, J.R., Cullen, F.T., & Ball. R. A. (2018). Criminological theory: Context and consequences (7th Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications.

Murray, J. L. (2017). Mass media reporting and enabling of mass shootings. Cultural Studies↔ Critical Methodologies, 17(2), 114-124. Web.

NBC News (2019). Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock inspired by criminal father’s reputation. NBC News. Web.

Renzetti, C. M. (2008). Criminal behavior, theories of. In L. R. Kurtz (Ed.), Encyclopedia of violence, peace and conflict (2nd ed.) (pp. 488-498). Elsevier Science & Technology.

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Shultz, J. M., Thoresen, S., & Galea, S. (2017). The Las Vegas shootings—underscoring key features of the firearm epidemic. Jama, 318(18), 1753-1754. Web.

Wallace, R. J., & Loffi, J. M. (2017). How law enforcement unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could improve tactical response to active shooter situations: The case of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, 4(4), 1-12. Web.

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