Stephen Paddock told a Las Vegas gun shop employee who sold him two firearms that he wanted the weapons to participate in a tactical gun competition that utilizes many of the same skills Paddock would employ in his sniping attack against concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip.
Paddock and the employee at the New Frontier Armory gun shop chatted in depth about competitions this spring as they waited for the results of two background checks for the gun purchase, both of which Paddock cleared, says David Famiglietti, the owner of the store.
Paddock paid $3,500 for a shotgun and rifle. It was the store employee's first big sale, Famiglietti tells Newsweek, adding that the employee did correctly run both state and federal background checks.
"The sales clerk said nothing stood out or seemed odd," Famiglietti says.
He says employees don't ask why a customer is purchasing a firearm "unless they get a funny feeling about someone," but it comes up in conversation quite frequently.
Paddock and the employee ended up talking about three-gun competitions, which test a shooter's ability to quickly switch among a rifle, handgun and shotgun while moving through an obstacle course and firing on targets, including human-shaped metal signs.
Paddock said it was "something he was interested in and looking to get into," Famiglietti says the employee told him.
Such competitions also feature a long-range shooting portion, where contestants use rifles with a scope to hit targets. A video from one of the competitions recommends a scope that can help shooters fire with accuracy out to 600 yards.
Paddock was able to strike concertgoers 500 yards away as he sniped from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
It's unclear whether Paddock actually competed in any shooting matches. Newsweek contacted a dozen gun ranges on Wednesday. Some did not comment. Others said they had no connection to Paddock.
The two guns purchased at Famiglietti's store are only a small fraction of the arsenal of more than 40 guns police found after they raided his hotel room and two homes in Nevada.
Famiglietti said even if the employee turned away Paddock, he would have easily acquired the weapons somewhere else.
"He could have bought those two guns at tens of thousands of other gun stores, so we’re trying our best not to take that part personal since there was nothing we could have done to prevent him from this terrible act," he says. "If we could go back in time and somehow know we shouldn’t sell him those guns, he still would have gotten them elsewhere."
Famiglietti said he's sold more than 60,000 firearms over the last year, and reports indicate that his store is one of the biggest vendors in the area. He said gun reform is pointless because America's problem has nothing to do with firearms.
"I don’t think people really understand the problem, they just want 'something' done by Congress," he said. "We have a people problem, not a gun problem."
Famiglietti told The New Yorker he considers the guns he sells "tools" and "99 percent of the time, they are used lawfully. I can't fix the rest, unfortunately, just like the C.E.O. of Ford or Chevy can’t stop people from killing people with their cars."
By Famiglietti's own math, 600 guns that he sold have been used unlawfully.
Overall, there are more guns in the U.S. than cars on the road—and both kill the same number of people, on average—roughly 30,000 Americans.
There were more than 310 million guns in the U.S. in 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Police say Paddock meticulously planned his rampage, propping cameras throughout the inside of his hotel room and outside in a possible attempt to notify him when law enforcement was coming.
His girlfriend, Marilou Danley, was traveling in the Philippines during the attack. Her sisters say Paddock sent her away so that she would not "interfere" with his plans.
Paddock also reportedly wired $100,000 to someone in the country ahead of the attack.
Danley was brought back to the U.S. Tuesday evening and will be questioned by the FBI.