The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Las Vegas Shooter Passed Background Checks, Had Ammonia Nitrate in His Car

It’s still unclear exactly what the shooter in Las Vegas used to carry out his disgusting attack last night. By all accounts, he had so many weapons that it’ll be a while before we know which ones he chose. Nevertheless, two new pieces of evidence have come to light in the last few hours, and both give us a little insight into who he was and what he was hoping to achieve. The first piece of news is that the killer “passed all required federal background checks” on at least two recent occasions:

Two Nevada gun shops confirmed Monday that they sold firearms to Mandalay Bay shooter Stephen Paddock in the last year and said he passed all required background checks.

It was unknown if the weapons Paddock bought from the gun shops, New Frontier Armory in North Las Vegas and from Guns and Guitars in Mesquite, were used in the casino massacre.

This doesn’t mean that the shooter didn’t have an automatic weapon as well, although if he did, as opposed to a Gatling crank or a bump fire system that increased the rate of fire on his semi-automatic rifles, he’d have had to obtain it separately and at great effort and cost. (Automatic weapons are extremely expensive — on both the black market and the legal market — and they can only be obtained after the buyer has paid a hefty tax and passed a rigorous and long-lasting federal check.) And it doesn’t mean that the weapons that he bought on these occasions were used in the shooting. What it does mean, however, is that he wasn’t a felon — or, at least, that there was nothing in the federal database that would have prevented him from buying weapons. That matters, because we are already hearing politicians pretend that “universal background checks” would have prevented this attack. They wouldn’t have.

The second is that, per the sheriff of the Las Vegas Police Department, the shooter had “ammonia nitrate” in his car. Given the peculiar sophistication of this attack — David French wrote about that earlier — one can only begin to wonder what else he had planned. As far as I understand, ammonia nitrate is an ingredient in what we’d call a “fertilizer bomb.” For whatever reason, this person was serious and he was prepared. Hopefully we’ll soon have some idea of his motive.

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