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Was the Las Vegas Shooting Terrorism?

by Countable | 10.2.17

What’s the story?

The mass shooting in Las Vegas, with a current death toll of 58 and number of injured at 515, is undeniably one of the single most deadly shootings in U.S. history. But is it legally considered terrorism?

Why does it matter?

As explained by Countable following the murder of anti-racism protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA, there is technically no charge of "domestic terrorism" possible under federal law:

"According to the Lawfare blog, ‘Domestic terrorism does not exist as a substantive offense under federal law....There is no such crime.’"

However, the federal government does have a definition of "domestic terrorism" on the books. If an act of violence is designated as domestic terrorism by the federal government then a whole host of resources are tapped to pursue an investigation. This was highlighted by Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) in a tweet this morning:

In the end, though, criminal charges will be brought by the state where the crime was committed. In this case, unlike the federal statute, which focuses largely on the "political" intent of the person committing an act of violence, Nevada has a law regarding terrorism, which focuses simply on the intent to harm. The law states that an “act of terrorism” is any “use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”

Stephen Paddock is dead; according to all accounts he took his life as the police entered his hotel room. However, the police do have an associate in custody, Marilou Danley, and it’s possible she will face criminal charges.

As police further investigate and America seeks to understand this tragic event, we will find out if the law enforcement community considers Paddock’s senseless killing as an act of terrorism. According to Nevada's state law it may constitute an terrorism, but it is less clear how the federal government will define this attack.

Lawmakers and the public were quick to raise the idea of domestic terrorism after Charlottesville. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) tweeted this:

Some lawmakers, though not many, were equally clear after last night’s shooting in Las Vegas about labelling it an "act of terror." Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) tweeted:

But calling it an "act of terror" is not the same thing as an “act of domestic terrorism.” An act of domestic terrorism has legal implications at the state and federal level that can influence investigations and prosecutions. An act of terror technically has no legal implications.

What do you think?

Should the shooting in Las Vegas be investigated as terrorism? What other actions, if any, should lawmakers pursue in response to this tragedy?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: The Straits Times via Twitter)

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(153)
  • Darren
    10/02/2017
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    Why is this even a question? If someone with a turban was associated with it the idiot in Chief would be the first one on Twitter conveying that narrative. This is no different so accept the reality that no one has a monopoly on hate or terror.

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  • Azrael
    10/02/2017
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    Terrorism is any act that causes terror Yes this was an act of domestic terrorism

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  • Mike
    10/02/2017
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    An overwhelming majority of Americans want some measure of gun control. How many times is this going to happen before we pass sensible, bipartisan gun control measures to protect all Americans. I am imploring you to please make America safer and pass legislation as soon as possible.

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  • John
    10/02/2017
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    Yes this is domestic terrorism. The shooter, gun manufacturer & ammo manufacturer are all part of that terrorism. And this terrorism is fostered by the NRA, a terrorist group if there ever was one. When will lawmakers put lives ahead of campaign money & the backing of a very small gang of gun worshipers? When will we hold them responsible?

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  • Chris
    10/02/2017
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    Anyone, regardless of religion or politics, who randomly kills other people is a terrorist!

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  • Quinby
    10/02/2017
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    Yes. This was a horrific act of terror. Stop using labels like “lone-wolf” simply because the perpetrator was white. It’s inaccurate and does not give an accurate depiction of what happened. This was terrorism.

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  • Chriss
    10/02/2017
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    Yes, domestic terrorism has been around since America’s inception google Rosewood, black Wall Street of Oklahoma, when whites gave blankets infected with small pox (biological terrorism), the terrorist activities in Colorado of arm men taking over a government building, terrorist movie attack, Dylan Roof etc. this is nothing new n America. Just depends on how US media/current administration narration will skew this terrorist attack. It will be minimized to mental illness because the terrorist is white Christian

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  • Claude
    10/02/2017
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    It is time we recognize the radical home grown terrorist Stop religious discrimination and start controlling military weapons

    Like (11)
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  • Heather
    10/02/2017
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    Absolutely this was an act of terrorism. Whether we call something like this terrorism should not be based on the ethnicity of the person who committed the act. If a person of Muslim descent was the shooter, there would be no hesitation to call it terrorism. It should make no difference that the shooter in this case was white. It is terrorism 100%.

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  • Carmen
    10/02/2017
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    How many people need to die before we take on the NRA? Seriously, how many? We need gun control asap. & yes, OF COURSE it's terrorism. To the people who keep saying it's not because he had mental problems, are you actually saying that terrorists are typically mentally stable? Are you listening to yourselves? Come on!

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  • Steve
    10/02/2017
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    In my opinion, this is definitely at terrorist act. I wish our politicians would recognize that even though the shooter was not tied to a terrorist organization, the amount of carnage indicated that he was a domestic terrorist!!

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  • Robert
    10/02/2017
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    Domestic white terrorism

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  • Teri
    10/02/2017
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    Yes, this was definitely domestic terrorism.

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  • pamster
    10/02/2017
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    The Las Vegas shooting is an act of domestic terrorism.

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  • Becca
    10/02/2017
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    Yes. If you look at Las Vegas own police definition of what terrorism is the shooter falls under that category. Which makes me wonder why they don't call him one.

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  • Jan
    10/02/2017
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    The crowd was terrorized, of course it was terrorism.

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  • NoHedges
    10/03/2017
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    This whole tragedy seems unbelievable. 🤔There was no evidence of any prior mental health issue. The man had no history of violence. ⚙️None of it makes any sense. 💎It honestly reminds me of the old 24 tv series. I keep wondering when Jack Bauer is going show up and reveal the nefarious dictator was behind the plot all along.

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  • Alex
    10/02/2017
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    The cumulative impact of events such as this and others like it is a worsening fear embedded in the American consciousness that breeds fear and distrust of our fellow American and our fellow human. This was an act of terrorism in that it has worsened a climate of fear that already exists in our society, which makes the idea of public life less secure and less functional. Schools, movie theaters, churches, nightclubs, music venues; where in America are we safe from violence?

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  • Jbev
    10/02/2017
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    Yes, this is domestic terrorism. It is time for us as a country to admit our faults and To ban assault rifles and anything that can be used to kill a large amount of people in a short period of time.

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  • Kathryn
    10/03/2017
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    YES!! YES!! YES!! Goddamnit how many people need to die for our elected officials to grow a pair, stand up to lobbyists and write some rational gun laws? Rational, common sense gun laws!!

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