What constitutes a terrorist?


It’s easier to blame mental insanity or illness for a majority of mass shootings when committed by white males in the U.S.

On Oct. 1 a mass shooting in Las Vegas occurred.

Fifty-nine people died and nearly 500 were injured, including shooter Stephen Paddock who shot himself before the SWAT team arrived to the Mandalay Bay suite where he was found dead and from where the shooting took place.

The shooting is now the worst mass shooting in American history.

After it occurred the media and private investigators began speculation that he had mental health problems without any evidence or history of such.

Immediately the FBI and officials avoided classifying it as a terrorist attack as the shooters motives were and are still not clear or known.

Now if we take a moment to recall past massive shootings in the U.S. or what were immediately called ‘terrorist attacks’ many might question why this massacre isn’t considered terrorism. Or if Paddock’s race played a role in the massacre not being called an act of domestic terrorism?

In an effort to get answers to this question let’s take a glance at the code of laws of the U.S. and the definition given to domestic terrorism.

As shown in law.cornell.edu, domestic terrorism is defined as, “means activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce (pressure) a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Now take a look at a recent U.S. terrorist attack and how it was classified.

Immediately after the December 2015 San Bernardino shooting occurred the married couple who committed the killing, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, were called terrorists.

Although there was no evidence of direct association with the Islamic state the FBI classified it as a case of terrorism two days after as they found a Facebook post which was referred as “a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” by CNN which was posted by the wife the same day the shooting occurred.

This was used as evidence to confirm the shooting was a terrorist attack committed by self radicalization. Soon after the official ISIS station praised the couple for the massacre.

Articles with headlines such as “San Bernardino shooters ‘supporters’ of ISIS, terror group says” were being published.

More factors were taken into consideration, such as the finding of “12 completed pipe bombs and a stockpile of thousands of round ammunition that could’ve indicated that the couple was planning more attacks,” according to an article written in The New York Times.

So, now if we go back to Las Vegas shooting the day after the massacre, ISIS claimed through its propaganda news agency, Amaq News that Paddock was a “soldier” who had converted to Islam.

Officials disregarded it.

Yet, if we compare it to the San Bernardino shooting, the only evidence authorities had of this was a Facebook post but no actual connections to the Islamic state.

Furthermore, the FBI used the 12-pipe bombs and stockpile of thousands of rounded ammunition that could have indicated the planning of more attacks as evidence of a terrorism case.

After the Las Vegas shooting the FBI found a stockpile of weaponry and equipment including 23 firearms, a computer and video cameras Paddock set up inside and outside the room.

According to the Clark County sheriff, Paddock targeted aviation fuel tanks, stockpiled his car with explosives and had personal protection gear as part of an escape plan.

Lastly reports show he had other possible music festival targets one in Chicago in a 21 Blackstone Hotel that overlooked a park where the festival took place, another in Boston and a week before the shooting he rented a condo that overlooked another music festival in Vegas.

But yet it can’t be classified as domestic terrorism as there’s still no evidence he was motivated by ideology or it might simply be easier to blame it on mental insanity or illness as the majority of mass shootings committed by white male in the U.S. are classified.

Or would this change the roles profiling has in America when it comes to the most horrific crimes?