As images of the guns used by Stephen Paddock in the mass shooting Sunday night begin to leak, a more complete picture of the attack can be seen. Images of two of the guns show rifles that are not what authorities expected. Neither are, as many firearms experts predicted, fully automatic.
Yet many media outlets are still confused by what they’re seeing. As The Daily Mail erroneously reports, “The photos, obtained by Boston 25, show a fully-automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon that appears to be modified to be fully automatic. Fully-automatic weapons allow the shooter to unleash bullet after bullet simply by holding down the trigger, with pauses only to refill ammunition. With these weapons, Paddock would have been capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute into the crowd. Both appear to be DDM4 assault rifles.”
The images actually show something very different. One of the rifles is equipped with a “bump fire” stock that appears to be made by Slide Fire. This add-on uses the momentum of recoil to make a legal semiautomatic rifle fire faster. It isn’t select-fire, or fully automatic, as the trigger is pulled for each discharged round (even though it happens very fast, if the user is proficient).
These devices have, until now, been universally regarded as somewhat of a novelty. They make firearms awkward to handle and hard to control.
The one in the image has a SureFire magazine attached. This likely holds either 60 or 100 rounds of .223. This gun is likely the one responsible for the sustained bursts heard on audio recordings from the concert. Many of those are marked by starts and stops that would be consistent with the difficulty many shooters have getting the bump stock mechanism to function efficiently.
The other rifle has a small scope and bipod. This is indicative of a gun meant for more precise shooting, and not one that would stream long bursts of automatic (or even simulated automatic) fire.
Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival at 10:08 pm Sunday night. Police broke in his door at the Mandalay Bay Hotel 72 minutes later. That leaves Paddock in the room for more than an hour. During that time, he killed 59 people and injured 527.
Paddock was well aware of the movements of the police, too. As the Mail reports, “he had cameras set up in the hallway so he would know when authorities arrived. Paddock continued to fight even as police breached his room – firing through the front door at officers. But by the time the SWAT team finally made it into the room, Paddock had killed himself.”
Artists renderings of the room suggest he also had cameras recording himself as he was shooting.
Here’s the breakdown of the 23 guns found at the scene. The list, compiled by the Daily Mail, suggests a diversity of guns meant for varying purposes:
“Four DDM4 rifles, the LA Times reports. Manufactured by Daniel Defense, the rifle features a muzzle flash suppressor, making it harder to tell where the weapon is being fired from. It also has a freefloat rail allowing for a variety of attachments including scopes and grips to enhance stability. The rifle costs $1,900 if bought new.”
“Three FN-15 rifles. Made by FN America, they also feature a muzzle flash suppressor and ‘H buffer system’, which reduces recoil and increases accuracy. FN-15 refers to a series of rifles, rather than a specific weapon, which range from smaller carbines to replicas of the military-issue M16. It is not known exactly which version was owned by Paddock. They range in price from $1,000 to $2,000, if bought new.”
“At least one AK-47. A Russian-designed assault rifle, it was used by the country’s military from 1945 and is still used by armies and rebel groups around the world. Known for its simplicity and reliability, it fires 7.62x39mm rounds which makes it less accurate but more devastating than other semi-automatic rifles. It can retail for as little as $600.”
“At least one Colt AR-15. This rifle is known as the most popular in America, with an estimated 8million in homes around the country. It is also gaining a dubious reputation as the weapon of choice for mass shooters, from movie theater killer James Holmes to San Bernardino terrorist Omar Mateen.”
5) Two ‘bump stocks’. While not weapons in themselves, these stocks modify semi-automatic weapons allowing for something close to fully-automatic fire. They fit over the [buffer tube] of a semi-auto rifle, and function by allowing the weapon to ‘bump’ back and forth as it is fired using the weapon’s recoil. Each bump brings the user’s finger down on the trigger, firing a round. This allows users to skirt around regulations prohibiting fully-automatic weapons.
The implications of this shooting will reverberate in the firearms industry, and will likely have lasting implications for law-abiding citizens who support the Second Amendment. For years, proponents of gun control have said this sort of attack was not only possible, but likely. The question many are asking is “now what?”