(ANTIMEDIA) Las Vegas, NV — The country is reeling following the widely-reported gruesome shooting at a country music in concert in Las Vegas late Sunday evening. With nearly 60 people dead as of Monday morning and hundreds more wounded, details are still emerging about how the atrocity unfolded and why the alleged perpetrator committed such a heinous act.
Amid the chaos, news outlets frequently get information wrong, and it will likely be days or weeks until the official story has been established. What is clear, however, is that whatever the finer details of the shooting may be, it was an act of terrorism, according to Nevada law.
Terrorism is often characterized by the assailant’s intention to force political or social change through intimidation (for example, radical Islamist attacks are often viewed as terrorism, and the white man who stabbed two Americans to death in Oregon back in May could also easily be considered a terrorist and he rambled on about “free speech” and his “country.”
“‘Act of terrorism’ means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to:
(a) Cause great bodily harm or death to the general population; or
(b) Cause substantial destruction, contamination or impairment of:
(1) Any building or infrastructure, communications, transportation, utilities or services; or
(2) Any natural resource or the environment.
2. As used in this section, “coercion” does not include an act of civil disobedience.”
The motive behind the intention to cause “great bodily harm” does not need to be political or social, and it is clear that shooting up a country music concert came with the intention of causing mass death.
Even so, authorities have shied away from calling Sunday’s tragedy a terrorist attack at this point. Generally, that term is reserved for people tied to the Islamic faith, who on more than one occasion have cited U.S. militarism in the Middle East as justification for their attacks.
Labels aside, whether murdering innocent people is done for political reasons or from mental illness (ultimately, the former is also a result of the latter), the United States continues to tremble at attacks that appear foreign while the greatest internal threat continues to present itself throughout the country.
Vox summarized a sampling of disturbing attacks perpetrated by white Americans with no ties to Islam (though ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Las Vegas attack, the FBI has said they are yet to find a connection):
- Sunday night, a 64-year-old white man from Nevada opened fire on a crowd of more than 22,000 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing more than 50 and wounding more than 200.
- In August, a 20-year-old white Nazi sympathizer from Ohio sped his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring at least 19 others.
- In June, a 66-year-old white man from Illinois shot at Republican Congress members during an early morning baseball practice, severely wounding several people including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House of Representatives Majority Whip.
- In March 2017, a 28-year-old white man from Baltimore traveled to New York City with the explicit aim of killing black men. He stabbed 66-year-old Timothy Caughman to death and was charged with terrorism by New York state authorities.
- In May, a 35-year-old white man from Oregon named Jeremy Joseph Christian began harassing Muslim teenagers on a train in Portland, telling them “We need Americans here!” Two men interceded; Christian then stabbed and killed them both.
A 2015 analysis by the New America Foundation found more Americans had died from right-wing extremism than Islamic terror since 9/11. Though there were some caveats to the figures, it was clear “jihadists” had not caused the most deaths. Other investigations have yielded similar conclusions.
Further, it’s worth noting that while some categorically blame the religion of Islam for mass death in America, many of the most devastating shootings in the United States were committed by white Americans who adhered to a different faith: U.S. militarism. From Columbine to the LAX shooting to the Navy Yard, Fort Hood, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and the Oregon school incident, the killers were either members of the military, rejected by the military, or emulated soldiers by showing up in military fatigues to kill innocent people. In another example, Pennsylvania cop killer Eric Frein grew up in a military family and carried an Army manual with him.
It should not be surprising that a country that glorifies violence as a solution to problems experiences continual mass violence.
Even so, just as supporting the military does not inherently make a person more likely to kill innocent people, being Muslim also does not predispose a person to commit violent acts.
As the story in Las Vegas continues to unfold — and unconfirmed narratives continue to blame Islam — what is clear is that it was an act of terrorism, innocent people were killed and injured, and anyone who would commit such an act is mentally and emotionally damaged, regardless of the ideology they adhere to.
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