Rumors and conspiracies have proliferated in the aftermath of the Sunday night shooting at a Las Vegas music festival that left at least 58 dead. Viral falsehoods include: false allegations about the shooter, a person of interest and Nevada’s gun control laws. More below.
Social media users falsely identify the gunman
Before police named Stephen Paddock as the shooter, some bloggers and social media users incorrectly pointed to a man named Geary Danley as the “murderer.” In a now deleted post, the right-wing blog, the Gateway Pundit, called Mr. Danley “a far left loon” and noted that he had followed several pages dedicated to liberal politics on Facebook.
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All of these claims are untrue. The unfounded rumors appear to have originated on the anonymous messaging board 4chan.
Incorrect information about an alleged accomplice
Facebook and Twitter users have connected Marilou Danley, a woman whom law enforcement officials initially described as a “companion” of the gunman, with a viral video to suggest that she knew in advance the shooting would happenand was perhaps complicit in it. In the video, an unnamed concertgoer recounted her experience with two people who she said told a group “you’re all going to die” before being escorted out of the concert.
There is no evidence in the video that Ms. Danley had been identified by the witness, and police have since said Ms. Danley was out of the country at the time of the shooting, and is no longer a person of interest.
Las Vegas’ gun control laws cause confusion
Some inaccurate claims have popped up in post-shooting debates over gun control. Some are claiming that automatic weapons are “already illegal” in Las Vegas.
That’s not exactly true. To start, we do not yet know what kind of weapons Mr. Paddock used. Police reports suggest at least 10. The rapid pace at which he fired has led to informed speculation that at least one weapon may have been fully automatic, like a machine gun. But nothing confirmed by the time these messages were posted to social media.
Also, while it’s true that a provision of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 banned civilian purchases of machine guns across the country, the provision also grandfathered in weapons that were made and registered before May 19, 1986. In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, counted some 175,000 transferable machine guns in the national registry as of December 2015.
Several states, like Iowa and Hawaii, have restrictions on the possession of machine guns in addition to the 1986 law. But there are none in Nevada, according to the National Rifle Association, where “it is lawful to possess, purchase or sell a machine gun or silencer that is legally registered and possessed in compliance with all federal laws and regulations.”
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