John Raines, Head of Political Risk at IHS Markit
On the evening of 1 October, a 64-year old white man used one or more rifles from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel and shot indiscriminately down into a crowd of country music concert goers, killing more than 50 people and wounding more than 200 others.
After the shootings, police killed the suspect, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada, in his hotel room.
- If the numbers of casualties are confirmed, the attack would represent the most deadly mass shooting in US history.
- Due to the high numbers of fatalities, use of automatic weapons will become more attractive to self-motivated actors in future mass shootings.
- Automatic weapons remain illegal, but modifications of semi-automatic weapons are easy to do and kits to alter these rifles are relatively inexpensive.
Police have yet to release a motive for the shooting, and local media report that the crime is likely not related to international terrorism.
While it is unclear what type of rifle was used by the attacker, the use of a fully automatic weapon if employed in a mass shooting would represent a significant increase in capability for an attacker –
– with recent attacks like the ones in Orlando in June 2016, Dallas in July 2016, and San Bernardino in December 2015, primarily utilizing semi-automatic assault rifles.
Furthermore, the renting of a hotel room facing the concert area suggests a significant planning and premeditation.
Due to the high number of casualties, other self-motivated individuals are likely to be increasingly attracted to using automatic weapons.
(A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says federal agents are “urgently tracing” the firearms they found at the scene of last night’s Las Vegas shooting, where dozens died and thousands fled after the sound of automatic gunfire shattered the night. Courtesy of WFLA News Channel 8 and YouTube)
While federal laws explicitly outlaw the personal ownership of such weapons, single shot semi-automatic rifles can easily be converted into nearly fully automatic weapons via kits widely available online.
Manufacturers of such kits claim that these alterations are easy to complete, cost roughly USD300, and allow for the shooting of 100 rounds in 7 seconds.
Outlook and implications
Gun control advocates will likely push Congress to enact bans on the selling of such kits if they were used in this shooting, but gun rights supporters, led by the powerful National Rifle Association, will probably challenge such restrictions and lobby Republican congressmen to allow their sale to continue.
One indicator that would indicate new gun restrictions are more likely would derive from comments by leaders of the conservative movement or members of the country music establishment to enact new measures to control the selling of such kits.