No, It’s Not a Terrorist Attack

Not every mass shooting that happens is a terrorist attack. Terrorism is a specific attribute that should only be used to describe certain events. 9/11 was a terrorist attack, the Charlie Hebdo killing was a terrorist attack, the shooting in Las Vegas was not a terrorist attack.

Yes, the Las Vegas shooting was a tragic and horrific incident, but it was not terrorism. This has nothing to do with the race or religion of the assailant it has to do with the meaning of the word terrorism. Terrorism has different meanings depending on where you look. There’s probably as many definitions of the word terrorism as there are countries, but nearly every definition has one thing in common — motivation. Motivation is often the crux of the definition of terrorism. For example, the US Department of State’s definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The key take away from this definition is that the assailant is motivated by “political or social objectives.”

The Las Vegas shooter was not motivated by “political or social objectives.” For this simple reason, it was not an act of terror. An act of terror is not just a big, violent, dramatic event. It’s more. But this is not case closed.

The people that think we should call the Las Vegas shooter a terrorist should still be listened to. Not because, they are right in that the shooting was an act of terrorism (they’re not), but because these people feel some sense of discrimination. And if a huge group of people feel a sense of discrimination then something is probably wrong. The problem may not exactly be that the Las Vegas shooter should be labeled a terrorist, the problem may be something else. Something more complicated. Maybe the problem is that if the Las Vegas shooter was an African-American, Muslim, Hispanic, or of Middle-Eastern descent, then he would be labeled something else. Maybe he would be labeled a terrorist.

PoliticsWes Cooper