Las Vegas, a 'soft target,' long feared an attack

The shooting of more than 500 people Sunday night at a country music concert in Las Vegas is prompting questions about whether such an attack could have been prevented by hotel or city officials.

Stephen Paddock, 64, checked into a 32nd floor room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip Thursday. He was found dead by police Sunday night, according to news reports, with at least 18 firearms in his room, including at least one fully automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon modified to fire automatically.

Like many popular tourism destinations, Las Vegas is what terror and security experts call a “soft target” for would-be attackers because it attracts large outdoor crowds of civilians. More than 40 million people visit Las Vegas each year to gamble, see concerts or other shows and take in the spectacle of the Strip. Six of the ten largest hotels in the world are located in Vegas, towering over the streets and plazas where tourists walk and gather.

See the most harrowing images from the scene: 

11 PHOTOS
The most devastating images from the Las Vegas concert shooting
See Gallery
The most devastating images from the Las Vegas concert shooting
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A man lays on top of a woman as others flee the Route 91 Harvest country music festival grounds after a active shooter was reported on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 2 people dead. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02: A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People run for cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01:  A person lies on the ground covered with blood at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01:  A person lies on the ground at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: (People carry a peson at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People take cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A man in a wheelchair is taken away from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
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“We’ve always been worried about it,” Nevada Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, a former Marine, told Yahoo News, about the possibility of a terror attack. “Everyone has been very laser focused on this for years.”

Local officials and security experts insisted that so far it seems like there’s nothing the city or its hotel magnates could have done to prevent the attack, which is the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“There were no indications of this person being a target we should watch,” Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, told MSNBC. “I don’t know how you could have prevented it.”

Mandalay Bay doesn’t allow firearms onto its premises, but also—like the vast majority of hotels—does not search guests’ bags or pass guests through a metal detector. (Some other Strip hotels allow firearms.) Security experts say those measures turn off guests and can be a logistical nightmare. It’s unclear how Paddock transported the weapons into his hotel room–in gun cases or generic bags.

Meet the victims of the deadly attack: 

54 PHOTOS
Victims of the Las Vegas shooting
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Victims of the Las Vegas shooting
Chris Roybal of Southern California, was a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, ABC News said. He was 28.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Sonny Melton (pictured right) is seen with his wife Heather, who survived the shooting.

(Photo via Heather Gulish Melton)

Quinton Robbins, 20, is described by his aunt as "the most kind and loving soul."

(Photo via Kilee Wells Sanders/Facebook)

Jordan McIldoon (left), 23, of British Columbia, was confirmed dead by his parents as well as fellow concert-goer Heather Gooze, who said McIldoon died in her arms. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jordan McIldoon, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS

Jassica Klymchuk, a single mother of 4, was visiting Las Vegas from Alberta with her fiancé. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Lisa Romero worked as a secretary at her local high school in Gallup, New Mexico. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Denise Burditus, of West Virginia, was attending the concert with her husband, and died in his arms. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Rachael Parker was a records technician for the Manhattan Beach Police Department in California, she was 33. 

(Photo via Twitter)
Susan Smith worked for the Simi Valley Unified School District in California.

(Photo via Facebook)

Adrian Murfitt was a commercial fisherman in Anchorage, Alaska, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. He was 35.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

John Phippen of Santa Clarita, California, was a father of five, grandfather of one and owned a remodeling and repair company. 

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Angie Gomez was a 2015 graduate of Riverside Polytechnic High School in California.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Angie Gomez, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS

Dana Gardner (pictured left) was attending the concert with her daughter, according to a GoFundMe page set up in her memory.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Rhonda LeRocque attended the concert with her husband, and their 7-year-old daughter, who were not injured, according to the Boston Globe.

(Photo via Facebook)
Jenny Parks was a wife, mother to two young children and a teacher, according to a GoFundMe account set up in her memory.

(Photo via Facebook)
Nesya Tonks was the mother of three boys, according to a GoFundMe set up by her employeer, Technologent.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Hannah Ahlers is survived by her husband and three children.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Carrie Barnette, 34, was in Las Vegas for a friends 30th birthday party.

Photo Credit: Nicole Johnson

Sandy Casey had taught special education for 9 years at the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. 

Photo Credit: Manhattan Beach Unified School District

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Sandy Casey, is seen in this undated social media photo

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Thomas Day Jr. is survived by his four children who attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival with him. 

Photo Credit: Thomas Day Jr./Facebook

Charleston Hartfield, 34, was an off-duty Las Vegas police officer, youth football coach, and military veteran. Our… https://t.co/UafOdLrcFz

Bailey Schweitzer was only 20 years old and had just started working at Infinity Communications and consulting as a receptionist 7 months ago. 

Photo Credit: Infinity Communications and Consulting

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Bailey Schweitzer, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS
Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Melissa Ramirez, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS
Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jack Beaton, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS
Christiana Duarte had begun working at her first full-time job since graduated college, according to the Los Angeles Times.

(Photo via Facebook)
Stacee Etcheber was a mother and wife to a San Francisco Police Dept. officer.

(Photo via Facebook)
Jennifer Topaz Irvine was a family law attorney based in San Diego, according to CBS News.

(Photo via Facebook
A fourth Kern County resident has passed away: Family of 27 y.o. Kelsey Meadows, confirm that she is the fourth Ker… https://t.co/DdzsCXbBh5
Calla Medig was described as a kind-hearted young woman with a beaming smile, according to CBC News in Canada.

(Photo via Facebook)
Cameron Robinson (pictured right) was an amazing friend, son, brother, uncle, cousin, coworker and boyfriend known for his love of cooking and dancing, according to a fundraising page set up in his memory.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Family tells me Kurt Von Tillow from Cameron Park was killed in #LasVegasShooting. Say he ❤️ his country. Always wo… https://t.co/w7Ndiq5YlO

Bill Wolfe Jr. was a loving husband and a wrestling coach in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.


(Photo via GoFundMe)

A fundraising account set up for Dorene Anderson (pictured top left) described her as a loving wife, mother, sister, aunt and friend.

(Phot via GoFundMe)

Steve Berger was celebrating his 44th birthday with a group of friends, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

(Photo via EFS Advisors)

Tara Roe Smith was the mother of two young sons, according to the Canadian Press. She was reportedly separated from her husband, Zach, during the shooting.  

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Erick Silva has been identified as one of the victims in the #LasVegasShooting https://t.co/uv3taTQCqU

Brennan Stewart had a love for music and his family requested that the funds raised from a GoFundMe account set up in his honor be used for a local youth organization that is centered around the arts.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Michelle Vo was attending her first country music concert, according to the San Jose Mercury News.


(Photo via Facebook)

Heather Alvarado loved to travel with her three children and her husband, according to a statement released by the Cedar City Police Department to local media.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Denise Cohen was a mother of two who was attending the concert with her boyfriend.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jordyn Rivera, is seen in this undated social media photo.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Candice Bowers was a single mother of three and is described her as a superhero who loved country music; she was ki… https://t.co/9qh6ARaN2I
Andrea Castilla was celebrating her 28th birthday with her sister, boyfriend and her sister's fiancee, according to a GoFundMe page set up by her family.

(Photo via Facebook)
Austin Davis was considered a friend to all, according to a fundraising site set up in his memory. He was 29.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Chris Hazencomb saved his friend's life by shielding her, the Ventura County Star reported. He was 44.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Victor Link, 52, “I could type for hours saying how great of a man you were and how everyone loves you so so much.”… https://t.co/qu3fOQ3jY7
Lisa Patterson was a loving mother, wife and donated countless hours to her community, according to a GoFundMe account. She was 46.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Rocio Guillen Rocha was still on maternity leave after giving birth to her fourth child six weeks ago, NPR reported. She was 40.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Derrick "Bo" Taylor served the Ventura Conservation Camp for decades according to statement by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. He was 56.

(Photo via Facebook)
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“Using metal detectors and searching everybody coming into a hotel is totally impossible,” said Fred Del Marva, a forensic expert specializing in casino security. “I was at the Bellagio a couple of weeks ago and there were 300 people trying to check in at one time.”

Some were carrying suitcases as large as desks wrapped in cellophane, he said.

Pat Brosnan, the CEO of a security firm that works with hotels, agreed.

“We’re in Vegas,” said Brosnan. “People are schlepping in all kinds of stuff. They’re there to party.” Hotel owners want the vibe of a hotel to be “friendly” and fun. “It’s not like going to the 9/11 memorial where they’re going to search you and take your bag,” he said.

But the sheer scale of this attack may change that approach, as Vegas reels from how vulnerable the 22,000 people attending a country music concert Sunday night turned out to be.

“I know there will be a lot of serious people on the Strip taking this as seriously as they’ve ever taken anything,” Anderson, the Nevada assemblyman, said. He added that he hoped people would not stay away from Vegas out of fear, since tourism is the area’s “lifeblood.”

RELATED: What the concert was like before the shooting

32 PHOTOS
Route 91 Harvest Country Musical festival prior to shooting
See Gallery
Route 91 Harvest Country Musical festival prior to shooting
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Jason Aldean performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Jason Aldean performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Jason Aldean performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Jake Owen performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Jake Owen performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01 Recording artsist Josh Abbott (C) of the Josh Abbott Band performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Big Kenny of Big & Rich performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Kane Brown performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Kane Brown performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Tyler Reeve performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Jordan Mitchell performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Recording artist Gary Stanton of Muscadine Bloodline performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Recording artist Sam Hunt performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Recording artist Sam Hunt performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Recording artist Sam Hunt performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Recording artist Lauren Alaina performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Fans cheers during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Bobby Bones of Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Violinist Natalie Stovall of Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Recording artist Brett Young performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Recording artist Kelleigh Bannen performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 30: Recording artist Kelleigh Bannen performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Eric Church performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Lee Brice performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Recording artist John Osborne of Brothers Osborne performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist T.J. Osborne of Brothers Osborne performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Michael Ray performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Michael Ray performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Tucker Beathard performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Ashley McBryde (L) and bassist Christian Sancho perform during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 29: Recording artist Curtis Rempel of High Valley performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on September 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
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Before this attack, Vegas had prided itself on keeping the Strip safe for its nearly 45 million annual visitors. John Choate, executive director of security at Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas, told a meeting of hospitality officials in March that people “should feel very, very safe coming to Las Vegas,” according to the local paper. He pointed out that the Strip draws on a special section of Las Vegas’ city police as well as the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Center and an FBI SWAT team for security. Casinos’ private security teams also cooperate with each other and law enforcement. Law enforcement has been praised for their quick reaction time Sunday night.

But if someone is determined enough to wreak havoc, they can.

“There’s lots of ways to get a high body count,” Brosnan said. “This is something that keeps us up at night every single night. How do we further bulletproof these areas? And a lot of times there’s not a concrete answer.”

Bill Bratton, the former commissioner of the NYPD, told MSNBC Monday that the easy availability of weapons in the country meant that law enforcement had to be ready to respond quickly to mass shooting events and had little opportunity to prevent them.

“This is the new normal in America,” Bratton said.

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