Commentary: Terrorism in America

Photo Courtesy of Billboard

Article By: Kylie Miller

News over the past two months has become filled with stories that have are all too familiar and expected for Americans. Four attacks have struck the United States since October 1st of this year, including the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. Las Vegas, New York City, Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Northern California have all experienced deadly attacks.

On October 1st, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white male, opened fire on a music festival from his hotel room in Las Vegas, killing 59 people and injured 500 others before killing himself. The death toll classifies this attack as a massacre, specifically the deadliest in modern US history.

Within the same month, another attack hit in New York City. October 31st, a truck deliberately ran into a crowded bike path in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 11 others. The attacker was 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, a green card resident from Uzbekistan, who was shot by law enforcement on scene. Though he does not have any direct ties with ISIS, it is believed he was inspired by the terrorist group. This attack is being considered “an act of terror” due to these circumstances.

More recently, on November 5th, a shooting took place in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The gunman was  26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, who opened fire on a church during their Sunday morning service, killing 26 people. The shooting is being considered a “domestic situation” by law enforcement, due to the connection between the gunman and his family members who attended the church.

Though it has not received as much media coverage, a man named Kevin Neal went on a rampage in Northern California on November 14th, killing five people, injuring ten others, and ultimately ending up at an elementary school. He was unable to enter the school and shortly after was shot by law enforcement.

Responses to these attacks are abundant on social media, especially remarks made by political figures. President Donald Trump shared his reactions via Twitter to three of the four events. Specifically, his tweets in response to the Las Vegas shooting and the New York City attack included:

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The differing reactions and classifications of these attacks create a big picture question of how we define terrorism in America. These four attacks are defined differently; “a massacre” versus “an act of terror” versus “ a domestic situation” versus “a rampage.” The underlying terror caused by all four is evident, yet not treated as such.

Another frequent topic that arises in response to such attacks is gun control in America. When considering the issue, some relevant information pertains to the three shootings. Though the New York City attacker was shot after waving around a pellet and paintball gun, he did not have or use an actual gun.

In the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter, there were 23 guns found, many of which Paddock illegally tampered with to be more destructive. Others were legally owned guns that have sparked a lot of controversies, such as fully automatic rifles.

The gunman in Sutherland Springs had a rifle and two handguns at the scene of the shooting. Though Kelley had legally purchased four guns over the past four years, he should not have been able to do so. With a history of domestic violence that led him to be dishonorably discharged from the United States Air Force, federal law should have prohibited Kelley from purchasing or owning any firearms.

As for the shooter in Northern California, Neal was ordered to give up his firearms by law enforcement after threatening a neighbor, whom he killed during his rampage. It is unknown if Neal ever gave up his guns. However, the ones he used that day were illegally manufactured by himself.

As with all pressing issues in today’s society, Goucher students have their own take.  Devon Esslinger, class of 2021, gave his perspective, saying, “I think terrorism is defined in the name; anyone that goes out of their way to strike terror. I feel as though gun control wouldn’t help because the people who do these attacks don’t care about laws. They would still find ways to get guns.”

 Michaela Diamond, class of 2018, shared her differing opinion, explaining, “Automatic weapons should not be used by people outside of the army in general. How many more people have to die before gun control becomes a thing?”

This question seems to be a common one among Democratic officials, some of which, similar to President Trump, who have also shared their opinions via Twitter. Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a series of Tweets in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting:

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These four recent attacks are only a few examples of terrorism in the United States. The top five deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history have all occurred in the last ten years. Even more shockingly, the top two incidents occurred over the last two years. 

Whether the root of the issue is gun control or not, one thing most Americans can agree upon is the desire for less violence and to stop the loss of innocent lives.

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