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No way to eliminate this kind of risk in free society, says former Homeland Security official

  • The deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas is already prompting questions about how to prevent such violence.
  • In a free society, there's no way to eliminate this kind of risk, but there are ways to mitigate it, said Chad Sweet, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security.
  • At least 58 people were killed and 515 injured after a gunman opened fire from his hotel room on more than 22,000 concertgoers in Las Vegas on Sunday.

The deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas is already prompting questions about how to prevent this kind of violence.

At least 58 people were killed and 515 injured after a gunman opened fire from his hotel room on more than 22,000 concertgoers in Las Vegas on Sunday. The suspect, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, appears to have used a fully automatic rifle, and law enforcement authorities discovered a cache of at least 18 other firearms in his hotel room, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"In a free society, there is no way to eliminate this kind of risk," said Chad Sweet, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security.

However, there are ways to mitigate the risks, he told CNBC's "Power Lunch."

That includes pre-incident training, threat intelligence and establishing a secure perimeter around the location.

Two festival-goers leave the area around the Mandalay Hotel after a gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 500 others when he opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 2, 2017.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Two festival-goers leave the area around the Mandalay Hotel after a gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 500 others when he opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 2, 2017.

Las Vegas, he said, was at the "forefront of information sharing."

"Regrettably, in this case, there wasn't an early signature," Sweet said.

Paddock was found dead in his hotel room in an apparent suicide, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.

Investigators said he had no known connection to international terrorism, and there were no other shooters. Nonetheless, ISIS claimed responsibility, offering no evidence.

Robert Strang, CEO of Investigative Management Group, agrees that risks can be reduced but said it is difficult to fully secure so-called soft targets like this.

"We can move the perimeters out, we can have more armed security at these locations, but we're never going to be able to really fully secure any of these soft targets," he said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

"Think about just getting on an airplane and what you go through to get on an airplane," Strang said. "Would we want to do that every time we walked into a restaurant or to a hotel?"

In fact, Las Vegas police perform drills on a regular basis and were able to respond quickly on Sunday, said Strang, who previously worked with the FBI, was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and served as the co-chair of New York's Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

"If they hadn't responded so quickly, identified the room so quickly and entered so quickly perhaps there would be more tragedy than we're seeing today," Strang said.

Sweet agreed there needs to be balance between safety and personal freedom. However, he said there are also many technologies that can increase security without diminishing individual freedom.

For example, acoustic technology can help police immediately identify the trajectory of where the bullet came from, he said.

— CNBC's Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.