Call It What It Is: Deadly Mass Shooters Are Domestic Terrorists

If you search, “mass shootings in US” on Google, you’ll most likely find stories about the latest mass shootings and death tolls America has endured within the last week in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, Gilroy, California, and Brooklyn, New York. Before that, mass shootings in Florida and South Carolina in January. 

The mass shootings have gotten so out of hand that Venezuela and Uruguay, understandably, warned their citizens about travel danger and hate crimes going on in the United States. 

Terrorism is terrorism, and it should be called what it is for what it does: destroys communities, takes lives, inserts fear.

Here are some points I found while searching the internet about the tragedies America has endured:  

  • The deadliest mass shootings (with the most fatal injuries), were at the hands of American White men. 
  • Many of the perpetrators had some connection to White extremist groups, whether through comments made on social media, or associations made with actual domestic hate groups. If no connection was made to a specific group, social media comments found prejudice against growing immigrant populations (as was the case with the shooter at the Walmart in El Paso).
  • The Dayton shooter (who identified himself as Italian and Iranian) seemed to be different in that he wrote about his desire to kill without expressing a specific target based on race or religion. He just wanted to terrorize in large numbers. According to one article, he was against this administration and his Twitter endorsed communism. It goes to show you that terrorists can be found on all parts of the political spectrum.
  • And finally, not until the El Paso shooting had we heard the term domestic terrorism.

In a memo released by the ACLU, we have the term “domestic terrorism” defined for us by the US Patriot Act in the following way:

“A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act ‘dangerous to human life’ that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) 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. Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism.”

And guess what? These particular domestic terrorists are not Muslim. They are not immigrants, or people of color. They are not victims. They are American. They are White. They are male, and they are extremists who shoot masses of innocent people at festivals, or at grocery stores, or even randomly in the street. These are homegrown domestic terrorists who are terrorizing the whole country, and it’s about time that we get familiar with calling these domestic terrorists out. 

We have a problem in this country, and we need to stop pretending it’s anything other than what it is:  domestic terrorism.

You may be asking yourself, “Why does it matter that we call these criminals out for what they are?” 

That’s a good question, considering there are no domestic terrorism laws that exist in federal criminal code. However, we need these terms to be labeled accurately to push for change in government policy. No longer should we bear witness to labeling criminals terrorists solely because of their religion or national origin, while absolving actual terrorists of the label simply because of theirs. Terrorism is terrorism, and it should be called what it is for what it does: destroy communities, take lives, and insert fear.

Calling it anything else minimizes it’s destruction. We have a problem in this country, and we need to stop pretending it’s anything other than what it is:  domestic terrorism. These shooters, they aren’t confused people. Mental illness doesn’t make someone a mass murderer or a terrorist, and it’s not fair to use that as a scapegoat or justification every time a White man kills hordes of people. There’s a hatred of the “other” that is breeding throughout this country — and that hate is perpetuating domestic terrorism. It’s about time we called it out.