Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why aren’t mass shootings called terrorism?

MSNBC recently asked this question.

Why aren't all mass shooters considered terrorists even if not "politically" motivated?  There is no common definition of terrorism.  On the other hand, Common definitions of terrorism refer to violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians).

Other than a crazy person has no identifiable religious, political, or ideological goal, they do have the other two parts of the definition: the use of violent acts which target or disregard the safety of civilians.  We can debate whether actual religiously, politically, or ideologically motivated terrorists are crazy as well.

The real issue here is the use of violence for some "goal", whether real, or something which is completely insane.  In fact, some people would say that anyone who feel the need to resort to violence is not completely with it.

The funny thing is that the pro-gun side appears to be pro-terrorist for some weird reason judging by the comments they made to MSNBC.  Additionally, the Constitution is pretty clear that the use of terror is unconstitutional (see Article I, Section 8, clause 15; Article III, Section iii, and Article IV, Section 4).  I would add that the Second Amendment does not explicitly contradict these clauses (but that is another post).

As Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951) pointed out:
Whatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a “right” to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.
The problem is that some people who claim to believe in the Constitution have absolutely no idea what it says or intends.  After all, why would a document that states as one of its purposes that it is to "ensure domestic tranquility" would allow for anarchy?

I would also add that if the people advocating overthrowing the government were left wing, they would be arrested in a heart beat.

On the other hand, I would be very wary of anyone who was openly advocating the overthrow of the United States and wasn't being regularly visited by the police.

Does the term agent provacateur mean anything to you?


  1. Actually, some have been attempting to get the shooting at Ft. Hood to be labeled terrorism instead of a workplace shooting.

    The federal government seems to have its definition.

    "Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:
    ◾Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
    ◾Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
    ◾Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

    18 U.S.C. § 2332b defines the term "federal crime of terrorism" as an offense that:
    ◾Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and
    ◾Is a violation of one of several listed statutes, including § 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon); and § 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the U.S.)."

    1. I don't know if they meet the second requirement. I guess we could use a loose definition of terrorism. As you guys well know, I have no problem with that.

    2. Yes, Mikeb, we know that. What I don't get is why you have no problem with looseness.

  2. It's because terrorism is understood to be for an ideological end, whether poltiical or religious. Someone looking to get his name in the news is simply crazy.

    But Laci, by your own line of reasoning, the United States is an illegitimate usurper of the British authority. In other words, of course a law doesn't include the authorization to overthrow it. But sometimes the law is unjust and needs to be resisted.

    1. Many see our actions around the world as imperialistic even terrorist like, with good cause.