Terror in Las Vegas

Attacker, gunman, sniper, psychopath — all words used to describe the person responsible for suddenly and brutally taking the lives of over 50 people, while cruelly maiming hundreds more in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. But, what we are not hearing this man called is a terrorist. What happened at the Route 91 music festival was a domestic terrorist attack. The terrorist planned extensively for what would be the final moments of his life, along with so many others. We don’t need to know his motive; he made his statement.

The blanketed reasoning for delaying attachment of the word “terrorist” to this incident is that, because no known purpose was explicitly stated by the man responsible, it doesn’t follow the exact guidelines of an easily classified terrorist attack. However, we don’t need his precise thought process to correctly label him as such. His goal — regardless of the motivation and reasoning that eventually brought him to his horrific actions — was to murder and mutilate as many people as possible in a short amount of time. There are mounds of evidence proving he plotted and planned that fatal night. He had dozens of guns, countless rounds of ammunition and security measures for knowing when the police were arriving to terminate his actions. This was not a random event, but rather a serious, deliberate act to inflict terror.   

However, the real reason we haven’t classified the massacre in Las Vegas as a terrorist attack yet is slightly more complicated than a simple lack of motivation. The suspect and killer was a middle-aged white man. He had no known mental health problems or ties to any suspicious persons. Had the shooter have been of Middle Eastern descent or had non-Christian religious beliefs, the media and investigating parties would have demonstrated no hesitation in confirming the slaughtering of lives as a terrorist attack. But, because this was a seemingly healthy, mentally stable, white man, there is reluctance.

Suddenly, we demand answers for why he did what he did, rather than focusing on how to prevent this from occurring again. We insist there must be a reason behind his monstrous acts. We refuse to label him a terrorist because we are disinclined to accept he could simply have done a tragically horrible thing without some particular reason urging him to. We do not want to believe that this deadly occurrence can happen suddenly, without motive and anywhere, like a country music concert. It hits too close to home, knowing that such an event could happen even in a place like Bozeman, where those fans are plentiful. Thus, we require that there is motive and meaning. We insist these events can only happen far from home and be done by people who have well known, specific intents.

If investigators do eventually find a motive, then it will be ruled a terrorist attack, so why not call it what it is now? Why label him as anything other than a terrorist? Motive will only confirm what we already know: he attempted to take the lives of as many people possible. Regardless of why he did it, it was a terrorist attack.

By delaying correctly labeling this horrendous event, we further postpone actions that would help avoid any similar happenings in the future. After an event is labeled a terrorist attack, our government quickly passes laws and regulations to ensure that whatever happened cannot easily be replicated. Because of the appropriate usage of “terrorism” being labeled to 9/11, we now have incredible security measures at airports. Since the Boston Marathon bombing, there are heightened safety procedures for large gatherings, even at seemingly innocent events. These protocols were created in response to an action being defined as terrorism. If we hope to prevent another attack like Las Vegas, we need to label it as terrorism so that accurate security actions are taken now, before it is too late yet again.