On Friday, Las Vegas undersheriff Kevin C. McMahill told the media that the motive underlying Stephen Paddock’s monstrous rampage remains a mystery. It’s truly bizarre that almost a week after the shooting we have no insight into what set Paddock off. Generally speaking, mass murderers kill in order to send a message, or because they’re seriously mentally ill.
Dylann Roof was a racist who killed to strike fear into the hearts of African Americans; Timothy McVeigh considered himself a revolutionary, and lashed out at “tyrannical government” over the Waco siege; Adam Lanza was autistic, obsessive-compulsive, likely schizophrenic, and became obsessed with school shootings.
Paddock, though clearly morally empty and repulsive, retained enough lucidity to craft his deadly scenario with meticulous precision. He selected a specific floor and room to provide maximum shooting advantage, smuggled guns and ammunition into the hotel undetected, utilized specific modifications on his weapons to increase devastation, and even planted cameras outside the room so that he could see the police coming for him. Mark Steyn pointed out that, in many ways, Paddock’s actions more closely resembled those of a professional hitman than those of his mass-shooting predecessors. The careful planning suggests Paddock had some form of motive.
So if Paddock wasn’t a paranoid schizophrenic facing a complete mental break, what message was he trying to send? We know now that he didn’t leave a note; he didn’t leave revealing internet search histories; he didn’t turn himself over to the police so he could enjoy his infamy. Is it possible that he simply had no motive or message? Perhaps, but alternatively, author Mark Steyn shared a theory on Friday sent to him by a reader whom he describes as a “gentleman at a London think tank.” The reader’s theory, which is worth reading in its entirety, even if just as a thought experiment, arrives at a motive that seems to check nearly every box.