In light of recent events in Las Vegas, Nevada, and sadly, in other parts of the United States in the past few years, people come together as a whole and grieve for those we’ve lost. There is no reason for events like this to occur on multiple occasions or in general — but that’s a discussion for another day. When these stories break and the initial shock wears off, people tend to not pay close attention to the statements surrounding these cases. In the case of Las Vegas, we don’t have all the facts yet, but we already know that this event is being called a mass shooting instead of terrorism. Given this event is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, isn’t the word “terrorism” appropriate?
By definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, terrorism is a “systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” A shooting is characterized by an abundance of definitions but the one that fits best in this sense of the word is “to strike with a missile especially from a bow or gun; especially: to wound or kill with a missile discharged from a bow or firearm.”
Yes, by definition, a shooting may fit the criteria but does it hold the same weight of the situation? The Las Vegas Massacre will go down in history as one of the deadliest and quite possibly the largest single perpetrator action in the past decade. So is it right to deem something that caused such a ripple in our lives simply a mass shooting and call it a day?
The Las Vegas Massacre will go down in history as one of the deadliest and quite possibly the largest single perpetrator action in the past decade.
We’ve had many shootings in the past few years so it might be easy to just group them and place them in the “mass shooting” box, but events like this shouldn’t be diminished. The fact is, an act of terror is terrorism any way you slice it. Calling the perpetrator a shooter or a gunman lessens the gravity of the situation, confuses the public and makes it seem like what happened wasn’t that bad. To understand how deeply-rooted an issue this is, let’s discuss some of the past terrorist acts which happened in the past ten years.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School fell victim to a single perpetrator, Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six teachers with a semi-automatic rifle. If you recall or even look up this event right now, all articles you find will refer to this as a shooting. The 20 children, no older than seven, were helpless to this attack and at the least, this event should be labeled a massacre. But, it’s not; it’s called a mass shooting. This heartless act of taking away innocent children’s lives may fit the definition of a shooting, but we aren’t choosing words with the right connotation.
The fact is, an act of terror is terrorism any way you slice it.
Closer to home, Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, fell victim to a shooting as well. This single perpetrator, Omar Mateen, took the lives of 49 individuals and victimized countless others. This case was first considered a “mass shooting” but once the perpetrator’s identity was disclosed as well as his relation to ISIS was discovered, it was instantly considered “the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11.” So what makes this different than the other obvious acts of terror? Was it the perpetrator’s pledge to ISIS or was it because of his race?
There is a strong possibility that the reason that certain events are called a mass shooting while others are considered an act of terrorism is based on the race and motives of the individual. The two aforementioned events were conducted by predominantly white Americans, but we tend to forget that the Pulse perpetrator was also a natural-born American. Yet, because he was of Afghan heritage and claimed to be an ISIS fighter, he was automatically considered a terrorist.
Since 9/11, we’ve held a lot of prejudice in our hearts. We should not forget that all of these perpetrators had the same motive, to evoke fear and terror in a large group of people. Events like what happened in Las Vegas are acts of terrorism and they should be called just that.