American mass shootings are frequent enough, and subject to such levels of media and law enforcement scrutiny, that they can typically be categorized and understood (to the extent such a thing is ever possible) soon after they take place. There are school and workplace shootings; acts of political extremism; attacks carried out by mentally ill and/or gun-obsessed loners. (Obviously, those categories can overlap.) The massacre perpetrated in Las Vegas on Sunday is not yet so easily explained. Among the basic questions we still don’t have answers to:
How did it happen? Authorities reportedly found 23 weapons in 64-year-old shooter Stephen Paddock’s Mandalay Bay hotel suite, to which he’d arrived by car. The Mandalay Bay says its staffers had gone in and out of the suite before the attack without noticing anything amiss. How is it possible to bring 23 weapons, including multiple assault rifles, into a hotel room from a car—and then store them—without being noticed?
Did the shooter’s girlfriend know about his plans? Multiple accounts indicate that the only person Paddock was close to was his 62-year-old live-in girlfriend, Marilou Danley. She reportedly left the United States on Sept. 25 and has been located in the Philippines, where she was born. CNN reports that 19 more weapons, plus “explosives, several thousand rounds of ammunition and some electronic devices,” were found in their Mesquite, Nevada, home. What, if anything, did Danley know about Paddock’s clearly premeditated attack?
What is going on with ISIS? The terror state’s propaganda arm claimed that Paddock was acting in its name and had recently converted to Islam. Is there anything to this, or is it false information spread by a group that’s increasingly desperate to make itself look powerful and relevant? That, of course, is related to the biggest questions:
Why the Route 91 festival? Why would Paddock target a type of musical event he reportedly enjoyed in a city he seemed to enjoy visiting? And, more generally:
Why? Why would an apparently well-off man in his mid-60s—one with no known mental health issues, history of violent/criminal behavior, or extreme beliefs—attempt to murder hundreds of strangers? Authorities haven’t yet said or even speculated.
Writer Walter Kirn has a guess:
I fear the #LasVegasShooter acted out of that most chilling & empty of all-American motives. To set a record. To be number one. That's it— walter kirn (@walterkirn) October 3, 2017
Chilling indeed, and chillingly plausible.