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Mass shooting in Las Vegas brings up issue of automatic weapons

Man with arsenal of automatic weapons opens fires on crowd in Las Vegas

DETROIT – Dozens of people are dead and more than 500 were hurt when a man with an arsenal of automatic weapons opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas.

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, a retiree living near Las Vegas, opened fire from a hotel overlooking a Jason Aldean concert attended by more than 20,000 people. Paddock then killed himself.

Police said he had no ties to terrorist groups. Paddock's brother, who lives in Florida, said he has no idea what motivated the attack.

"I mean, he's definitely only himself," Eric Paddock said. "There's no affiliations, once again, that I know of. There's no affiliations. There's no church. There's no politics. There's no anything."

Investigators said Stephen Paddock lived a quiet life in a retirement community and often visited Las Vegas to play high-stakes poker. So far, they haven't found a motive for his attack.

It didn't take long for politics to come into play with the tragedy unfolding -- Specifically, the issue of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines capable of firing hundreds of rounds before reloading.

Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy tweeted, "To my colleagues: Your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers. None of this ends unless we do something to stop it."

Paddock apparently used an AR-15. Semi-automatic weapons, which are legal, fire a single bullet when the trigger is pulled. Automatic weapons, which aren't legal, empty the magazine when the trigger is held down.

The weapon used in Las Vegas was something in between that nobody saw coming. The shots were fired from a semi-automatic gun with a trigger crank, which is a fishing reel-type device attached to the trigger.

"The best way for me to describe it is the old Gatling gun you may remember from the movies using a belt feed for ammunition," said Bill Kucyk, who runs Action Impact Firearms and Gun Range. "This is a modified version of that concept.

"So, a hand crank with every revolution it fires three shots. This is highly technical stuff and not something you put together in your garage."

Kucyk said it takes someone who knows what they're doing to put together a trigger crank.

"You really have to be a somewhat serious gun person to even know that you could adapt -- notice I said adapt -- not modify, to a fully auto phase," Kucyk said.

There are about four other ways to modify a semi-automatic rifle, most of which can land a person in prison for 10 years.

Instead of using a crank, there's a legal way to make a rifle act like an automatic. It allows a user to put their finger on the trigger, and the stock moves back and forth. There are all kinds of technologies that get around the laws and are way ahead of authorities.

Kucyk said the trigger crank allows a shooter to fire about eight to 10 times faster than using a finger.

He said what comes with a trigger crank is really aiming with one hand, which is why Paddock's victims were all over the concert venue, not just in one spot, because he wasn't able to aim at all well.


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