Dr. Ross L. Riggs
Author of “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat” Motivational Press 2017
All too quickly the ‘talking heads,’ who seem to populate the 24/7 news channels almost immediately after a tragedy, are sharing opinions based on rhetoric, supposition and hearsay with barely a modicum of personal experience to make them believable. There is analysis of the shooter from the time that he was in elementary school to his time as a U.S. postal worker turned millionaire and the story about his father being once wanted by the FBI for bank robbery. Whether those pieces of information play out to help authorities make some sense out of the events of this past weekend that took the lives of fifty-nine, so far and wounded hundreds more, only time will tell. To rush to judgment so early in the investigation is to almost certainly succeed at one thing, and that is to provide pungent fodder for on-line debate among those who do not have access to facts. The professionals involved in the investigation should not be diverted from their work by the melee created by those who have access to the media and a penchant for promulgating conspiracy theories so inane that only the like-minded will indulge them.
What can we learn so early in the investigation, even when all the facts are still yet to be uncovered? There are some very good lessons that can be gleaned without detracting from the work being completed by the professionals in Clark County and others. I make the point in my book that, to stop terrorists or any others who wish to thwart the law and seek to profit in some means by bringing a crisis upon a community, there must be a cohesive effort among citizens and law enforcement. It cannot be just the ‘cop’s job’ nor is there room for the attitude of ‘it’s not my job’ by either the citizens or even those in various aspects of law enforcement. Prevention of crime, particularly massive attacks against the local community is everyone’s responsibility. The oft spoken adage of, See Something – Say Something is truer than we imagine and probably one of the best pieces of advice anyone should heed. It is too easy to pass off something that seems unusual and not report it, justifying inaction by scoffing at the idea that anyone in authority would really take you seriously if you did report it. I am certain there are those in the ranks of the criminal justice system that might just blow-off a citizen report and maybe even come down on the caller for ‘bothering them’. Those individuals need to be ferreted out and relieved of the heavy responsibilities they carry by letting them find other work, perhaps as a hat checker in a backwoods brothel.
The owner of Guns and Guitars, Christopher Sullivan was quoted from a statement issued Monday that “Stephen Craig Paddock showed no signs of being unfit to buy guns.” (Emphasis on the plural) A company spokesman, Shawn Vincent, later declined comment on how many guns Paddock bought and that “those details could only be shared with authorities.” At what point, when a man who had not bought guns previously suddenly begins to buy an apparently large number of guns, does the gun shop owner have a duty to ‘See Something – Say Something’? We don’t know what “signs” Sullivan refers to that would indicate Paddock was “unfit to buy guns” nor do we know Sullivan’s background, education and training that would qualify him as knowing if someone was unfit. The key must be the large number of high capacity magazine fed long-guns and guns that could be made to fire on automatic. According to the reports, “Stephen Paddock also had two devices that are attached to the stocks of semi-automatic guns to allow fully automatic gunfire. The bump-stock devices have attracted scrutiny in recent years from authorities.” Certainly, the purchase of these devices along with all the other purchases by a retired man, living in a retirement community in a town of only 18,000 people, is out of the ordinary. If someone claims that doesn’t rate a call to the local police, then Mesquite is more than the name of the town and they must be using that powder for something other than cooking!
I am a strong advocate of the 2nd Amendment and a qualified citizen should be able to buy all the guns he chooses. However, he should also expect that if that number is large and if it is in a very short time period, that he will be inquired upon. That is just common sense and in today’s world, it is necessary.
Christopher Sullivan did not cause Stephen Paddock to kill 59 people and wound more than 500 others. He does have a responsibility to say something when firearm purchases are out of the ‘norm’. With the application of a little common sense, anyone who has had any time managing a gun shop will know what the ‘norm’ is. Does that equate to Sullivan having any legal liability, that is for the investigators and prosecutors to determine and it’s not the point of this article. The point is that as citizens, together in community, we have a moral responsibility to one another.
A bit of questioning must go to the ATF. At what point do multiple sales of high capacity firearms in a short time frame cue the system to flag a buyer to be investigated? If it doesn’t do that, why doesn’t it?
The second person or persons who, it appears, should have had the opportunity to ‘See Something – Say Something’ is the hotel staff. Perhaps it is a concierge, a bellboy, a maid… there seems to be little way that any single individual could haul seventeen long-guns to an upper hotel room without anyone noticing. If one of those did see something and they said something to management and were hushed, that needs to be known. If someone saw something and neglected to say anything I can only wonder what their sleepless nights will be like.
Allow me to close with a positive story about how, when people who see something have enough sense of their obligation to their community and to the most vulnerable members of that community, the good guys win one. Just this evening, as this article is being finished, word came that a person, of whom I know nothing, heard a small child screaming and crying violently from inside a car that was parked along a side street. This person not only called the local police; they also provided a vehicle description and a license number. The registration on the car came back to a registered child sex offender. By means of appropriate and thoroughly good police work and the help of yet another citizen who was willing to get involved, the four-year-old boy is now safe and the pedophile, robbed of his would-be victim, is securely behind bars. How easy could it have been for the person who heard the child screaming and crying to pass it off as a late-night, tired child, and continued on their way leaving the four-year-old to face a monster? Thank God, they didn’t.
See Something, Say Something? You better believe it – it works! If there are any early lessons to be learned from the Mandalay Bay massacre it is that.
Quotes and details attributed to http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/entertainment/latest-guest-vegas-gunman-room-shaken-article-1.3535759