Terrorists, Foreign and Domestic

As I have written before, I am more afraid of domestic terrorists than ISIS, the Taliban and al Qaeda combined. Now I have support in my personal evaluation of terrorists in the United States; the FBI.

According to The Hill (March 9, 2019), the FBI had arrested about 150 domestic terrorist subjects in 2017 and 120 in 2018. 110 people were arrested in connection to terrorist plots inspired by ISIS, al Qaeda and other foreign extremist groups. Of that only 30 were tried as terrorists. In 2018, that number dropped to 8.

Because the federal government does not designate any organization as “domestic terrorists,” there are no “official” figures as to how many of these groups and cells exist in the US. The FBI does define domestic terrorism as acts “perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”

Their focus seems to be on “Homegrown Violent Extremist” (HVEs), “defined by the FBI as global-jihad-inspired individuals who are based in the U.S., have been radicalized primarily in the U.S., and are not directly collaborating with a foreign terrorist organization.”

However, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC.org) estimates that there are some 24 domestic hate groups in my home state of Missouri alone. They include the Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Atomwaffen Division, and the Aryan Nations Sadistic Souls Motorcycle Club, among others.

And these groups are not just limited to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The Army of Israel and Israel United in Christ are among the Black Nationalist groups that are considered “hate groups” by the SPLC.

Unfortunately, the majority of the people arrested for “domestic terrorism” are tried for other crimes. Take for instance Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson. Though a self-proclaimed white nationalist, a stockpile of weapons and having a “hit list” of Democratic leaders, news anchors and others, he will only be charged for gun and drug charges.

The Oklahoma City bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were convicted of murder, conspiracy and making a weapon of mass destruction. They were not convicted terrorism, treason or other similar charges.

The RAND Corporation, “a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges,” writes that “Domestic terrorism involves violence against the civilian population or infrastructure of a nation—often but not always by citizens of that nation and often with the intent to intimidate, coerce, or influence national policy.”

Brian Michael Jenkins, president of the RAND Corporation and writing in Politico, reported that there is a federal definition of Domestic Terrorism.

“Current law defines domestic terrorism as ‘activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;(ii) to 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; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.’”

A mass shooting, on the other hand, is defined by the FBI as a shooting that involves four or more persons.

The problem here is that mass murders are not always considered terrorist. For example, it is still unknown why Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 in Las Vegas and wounding 546 others, committed this act of mass murder.

So what I am I really afraid of? It would appear that the fear comes from the idea that I am more likely to be the victim of a domestic mass shooting than a domestic terrorist attack. Not that I am now carrying a concealed weapon to ease those fears.

In fact, my chances of being involved in a mass shooting are still quite low. I am more likely to be killed by a motor vehicle accident (1 in 108) than a mass murder (1 in 11,125). However I am more unlikely to be killed in an attack by a foreign born terrorist (1 in 45,785).

So where does this fear of being involved in a mass shooting come from? I believe they come from better and more immediate news reporting. During World War II, it took almost a week for news to be transferred from the front lines to the audiences in movie theaters. During the Viet Nam, it took a couple of days to watch the battles in our homes. Today, we are imbedded in with the troops in real time, watching the “action” as it takes place.

We see the increase media coverage of mass shootings because they are more accessible to the media than ever before. We have individuals with cell phones taking videos and posting them immediately and live on YouTube. We are led to believe that there is a mass shooter around every corner.

So should we be afraid of the possibility of a mass shooting in our neck of the woods (regardless of which woods you live by)? Not to the point of carrying a firearm for self-protection.

As Mark Follman of Mother Jones wrote in December 2012, in the 62 mass shootings that occurred between 1982 and 2012, “not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. And in other recent (but less lethal) rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, those civilians not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.”

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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