Nevada town where Vegas suspect lived catered to gamblers and gun lovers | US news

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Stephen Paddock did not have to travel far to add to his arsenal of weapons. Three miles from Paddock’s house in a quiet community in Mesquite, Nevada, is the independent family-run store with a name catering to two local obsessions: Guns & Guitars.

It is a place where local residents can pick up a mahogany acoustic guitar for $175 or a Ruger AR-556 rifle for $749.

The shutters were closed at the store, on a strip beside a Thai restaurant, early on Monday, soon after the owners discovered one of their customers was suspected of perpetrating the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

Paddock, 64, opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, 80 miles away, late on Sunday, murdering 59 people and injuring more than 500, before killing himself, officials said.

Who was Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock? – video

The owners of Guns & Guitars confirmed in a statement to the media that Paddock was a customer, and had purchased “firearms” from the store after passing the requisite background checks. “He never gave us any indication he was unstable or unfit at any time,” they said.

Guns & Guitars was not the only licensed firearms dealer where Paddock is known to have purchased weapons – he also bought a shotgun at a store 40 miles away, in Utah, and a rifle and shotgun from another store in Las Vegas. If the weapons Paddock bought in the stores surrounding his home were not used in the attack, which experts said appeared to have been perpetrated using either a fully automatic weapon, or a modified semi-automatic, they may have been among the stockpile police discovered at his home.

Shortly after crushing the garage door at his ranch-style, one storey home, heavily armed police discovered a stockpile containing an additional 19 firearms, explosives and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Twenty-three were found in the Las Vegas hotel room from where the gunman fired.

Mesquite, population 18,000, is a quiet desert city along the Utah and Arizona border, surrounded by desert mountains and creosote scrubland. It is close to Bunkerville, where Cliven Bundy, the Nevada cattle rancher, courted an armed confrontation with federal authorities over grazing rights three years ago.

The city, just over an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, made a suitable base for Paddock, who according to friends and neighbors was a dedicated, high-rolling gambler. On several occasions, according to one report, which cited senior law enforcement officials and a casino executive, Paddock’s gambling transactions exceeded $10,000.

Not unusually for city in a rural, libertarian state where residents are permitted to openly carry guns, Mesquite is also a place that caters to firearms enthusiasts.

New guns can be bought at the local Walmart superstore, and there are a wide array of secondhand weapons on sale at a nearby pawn shop. If residents want to target-shoot in the desert, they need only drive about 10 minutes away, down a dirt track across the Arizona border, and visit the Smoking Gun Club range.

Still, Mesquite, which is dotted with casinos, golf courses and RVs, appears to be more of a haven for gambling-obsessed retirees than gun fanatics. While the streets were largely empty Monday, casinos were packed full of retirees playing slot machines.

Paddock and a woman identified as his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, 62, lived in Sun City, an exclusive community for retirees, where some residents zip around the quiet, palm-tree-studded streets on golf carts.

The house is in a prime spot in the community: high on a plateau, it has views overlooking the city and a neat, well-tended front yard filled with cactuses and desert bushes.

“This is a 55-and-over community,” said Tom Jennings, a 71-year-old neighbor who lives in Prominence Village, the name of the subdistrict where Paddock lived. “People go to bed here at 8pm.”

Jennings said he had never interacted with Paddock but he was known in the neighborhood as “a very normal, everyday, guy”. “But isn’t that the way it always is?” he said. “These guys seem normal and then you wake up one morning and … this.”

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