Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano explained why classifying the Las Vegas a terrorist may be premature. He said that according to federal law, unless new information about the shooting that claimed the lives of 59 people on Sunday is revealed, the worst mass shooting in American history cannot be classified as an act of terrorism unless there was a political motive behind the attack.

Lone gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert-goers at the Mandalay Bay casino complex in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. Armed with several rifles, he fired multiple rounds at the crowd of thousands below his 32nd floor perch in the casino-hotel. So far, questions remain as to his motivations for the killings. The 64-year-old Paddock is reputed to have been a gambling addict, according to his brother. 

Napolitano said that Congress passed law decades ago in response to citizens who were outraged over sentences of less than capital punishment handed down by some states for mass killings. Speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, Napolitano said, “Congress enacted the Anti-Terrorism Act which said that terrorism is two or more acts of violence done in order to affect the policy of the government, that is, for political reasons.” 

Napolitano went on to say that unless the federal government can establish that Paddock was motivated by a political cause or was seeking to change government policy, his crime cannot be classified as an act of terror.

“Had he survived this, had he not killed himself, had the SWAT team captured him, he would have been subject to the death penalty because there is a death penalty in Nevada,” Napolitano said. Noting that in states where there is no death penalty, the suspect could be charged under and the federal terrorism act and subjected to execution if convicted,  Napolitano said, “but you’d have to show the political motive.”


There are some media outlets and others who question why the Las Vegas shooter has not yet been classified as a terrorist. For example, the Vox website published in the wake of the shooting an article titled: "White American men are a bigger domestic terrorist threat than Muslim foreigners: Since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners."

Vogue magazine issued an article titled, “Why Won’t Anyone Call the Las Vegas Shooter a Terrorist?” It argued:

“According to the dictionary, violence must be politically motivated to truly constitute terrorism. Paddock’s motives are not yet known, which is how some would explain not calling him a terrorist. But whether or not Paddock ever meets the technical definition of terrorist, we know without question that he “created and maintained a state of extreme fear and distress” among the innocent crowd in Vegas. By definition, he terrorized them. But nobody is saying that word, either. When words fail, it seems platitudes prevail.”
 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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