Las Vegas shooting embodies characteristics of terrorist attacks

The United States is still recovering from the largest mass shooting in history, which occurred in Las Vegas on Sunday Oct. 1.

“A gunman opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday evening, leaving at least 58 people dead, not including the gunman, and injuring more than 500 near the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino,” USA Today reports. 

Following the attack, Las Vegas law enforcement indicated that this violent act would not be treated as one of terrorism because the shooter resided locally, according to the The Washington Post. In addition, “White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Monday’s briefing that ‘it would be premature to weigh in’ on whether the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism,” The Washington Post said.

The fact that the largest shooting in modern U.S. history is not being classified as a terrorist attack is incomprehensible. 

On Twitter, journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, “in the early stages of mass shooting, ‘no signs of terrorism’ means: ‘shooter isn’t Muslim.’” While the identity of the shooter isn’t the only thing that affects the classification of the attack, it confirms prejudice and influences the way the U.S. government and citizens perceive attacks of these nature.

The Washington Post reports that Nevada defines terrorism as “any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to ... cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”

It is incredibly clear that under this definition, the deadly shooting in Las Vegas should be considered an act of terrorism. It is concerning, however, that both the local and federal government dismissed this and made a judgment call so quickly. Their decision was presumably based only on the identity of the shooter, failing to address other complex aspects of acts of terror.

The hesitancy to label the Las Vegas shooting as terrorism stems from the association the word terrorism has with attacks made on behalf of radical Islam. While these attacks are certainly acts of terrorism, the term is not limited to just attacks of that nature.

In terms of the way the state of Nevada defines terrorism, the Las Vegas shooting was just that: an intentional act of mass violence that caused great harm and death. It is imperative, moving forward, to create an all-encompassing understanding of what terrorism is to rise above prejudice.