John C. Thompson
Besides the obvious tragedy in the October 1st mass shooting in Las Vegas, there is a more disturbing consideration: The bar for mass killing by a single individual has just been moved and new techniques have been unmasked. Be sure there is somebody adjusting their own plans right now.
Human ingenuity is a wonderful thing, but often enough it is applied for the purposes of homicide.
The shooter in the Mandalay Hotel wasn’t a marksman shooting at individual people. What he was essentially doing was machine-gunning a crowd. It is hard, even in such liberal firearms environments as Nevada, for ordinary people to get their hands on fully functioning automatic weapons, but the shooter found away around that.
Bump-Stocks were designed to allow gun enthusiasts (in some US states) to coax automatic rates of fire out of semi-automatic weapons. From a technical point of view they are an ingenious solution, but improvised automatic weapons are a prodigious waste of ammunition. Soldiers and police who use real assault rifles and submachine guns reserve automatic fire for very close ranges and use short bursts of 3-5 rounds to stay on target.
The lengthy bursts coming from the Mandalay Hotel would be consistent with real machine-guns, but a trained military gunner would be unlikely to fire an estimated 750 bullets per minute for 15 long minutes. Barrels over-heat and have to be changed, and after 500 rounds or so, most machine-guns have to be opened up and have their head-spacing and timing checked (Two features that seldom appear in movies where machine gunnery is depicted).
What happened on October 1st, was that the shooter tossed his guns aside when they over-heated and plunked new ones onto the Bench Rests he used to steady his weapons. What he then did was move the ‘beaten zone’ around on the crowd that was his true target. It is doubtful if he ever looked directly (even through a scope) at anyone he was about to wound or kill.
For those untrained in machine-gunnery, the beaten zone is the area where a weapon’s cone of fire impacts on a surface.
Given the almost unanimous opinions across the US political spectrum on the continued legality of bump-stocks, they may soon be come illegal in much of the US. Oversized 40-100 round magazines for rifles might join bump stocks on the banned list.
The shooter in Las Vegas does join a parade of various murderers – a mix of sociopaths and terrorists – who have brought innovation to the repertoire of lethal techniques. The last 100 years have seen the introduction of the truck bomb, the suicide belt, and now the improvised machinegun. We have also seen traditional weapons used in new ways. Technology also has to be matched to improvised tactics in the ceaseless search to find innovative ways of attacking an entire crowd.
The techniques that were used in Las Vegas are undoubtedly being analyzed elsewhere. Al Qaeda and ISIS do have specialists in planning homicide, while sociopaths might be mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid. The bar has been moved, and before too long, somebody else will be walloped with it.
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