The New York Daily News has a cover out that calls political activist Wayne LaPierre, head of the gun rights advocacy group the National Rifle Association, a terrorist. This comes just a week after the New York Daily News published an article that quoted Planned Parenthood officials as saying “hateful language” caused the Planned Parenthood shooting.
Here’s The Guardian‘s Jessica Valenti putting the argument in the clearest way: “Do we really think that there are no consequences to claiming that abortion is murder, or that Planned Parenthood is an organization of money-hungry monsters selling baby parts?”
Think about that while see people calling the NRA leader a terrorist with his picture published right next to the faces of some of America’s most vicious mass murderers.
As for those mass murderers, only two of them–the Planned Parenthood Shooter and the Charleston Church Shooter–fall into the definition of terrorism, which is politically-motivated violence. The Sandy Hook Shooter and the Aurora Theatre Shooter had no discernible motives for their crazed violence. To say that they are violent lunatics doesn’t excuse them (murdering two dozen is evil for any reason); it simply is in accordance with the facts.
There are some disputes about what should constitute terrorism when it comes to attacks on military personnel and other specifics, but neither Sandy Hook nor Aurora fall into those disputed territories. Any of the following definitions would suffice:
“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.
(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;
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
UK Terrorism Act 2000:
(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where:
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism:
1. Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this Convention if that person, by any means, unlawfully and intentionally, causes:
(a) Death or serious bodily injury to any person; or
(b) Serious damage to public or private property, including a place of public use, a State or government facility, a public transportation system, an infrastructure facility or the environment; or
(c) Damage to property, places, facilities, or systems referred to in paragraph1 (b) of this article, resulting or likely to result in major economic loss,
when the purpose of the conduct, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.
United Nations Declaration to Supplement the 1994 Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (1996):
Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them
The key point in each definition is that terrorism must have a political or social motivation. The UN’s (non-binding) definition from 1996 makes explicit some of the possible motivations including racial, ethnic, and religious considerations. Even including considerations of “any other nature,” an act must still have considerations. What were the motivations of the Sandy Hook or Aurora shootings that made them terroristic in nature?
Michele Richinick of MSNBC argues that the Sandy Hook shooter did “harbor political motives.” She quotes him as writing:
It goes without saying that an AK-47 and enough ammunition could do more good than a thousand ‘teachers,’ if one is truly interested in reforming the system. In short time the children will be brainwashed, pumped full of Xanax and told to conform, until they have been turned into the oppressors.
In that, one could perhaps read a vague anti-authority, anti-education ideology, but it’s certainly not as clear as, “Don’t draw the Prophet Muhammad!” or “Don’t have abortions!”
The Planned Parenthood Shooter reportedly told authorities “no more baby parts,” according to a law enforcement source. That seems to confirm a political motive that was already suspected based on the location of his attack. Thus the attack has been called terrorism by many, including Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The Charleston shooting was clearly intended to strike fear into African-Americans, as explicitly spelled out by the shooter in his manifesto.
As for the San Bernardino shooting, it is true that news of the motive hasn’t been released as clearly as has been the case for the above shootings, but it has been released that one of the murderers pledged allegiance to ISIS, an international terrorist organization, before the attack.
The FBI is, as of yesterday, still hewing to the words of the law:
“It’s way too early to speculate on motive,” he [LA field office head David Bowdich] said.