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Defining a Terrorist

Evan Hecht, Staff Writer

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On October 1st, 2017, Stephen Paddock took 58 innocent lives and injured 527 from his Las Vegas hotel room. This is now the largest mass shooting in U.S history. Paddock was a middle-aged white male who had no relations to a terrorist organization. He was a man with 19 firearms shooting from his hotel room intent on inflicting terror. Unfortunately, due to journalistic linguistics and precautions, you cannot call this man a terrorist regardless of the fact he blatantly committed an act of terrorism. 

In my mind, this man is a terrorist, but if I or any news source refer to him as such in an article based on fact and not opinion, it is considered an act of libel. But, is it okay to attempt to make this man sound like an everyday “average Joe”? For example, The Daily Mail writes, “Who is Stephen Paddock? [The] Las Vegas shooter, 64, was a licensed pilot and hunting enthusiast with no criminal record.”  The Washington Post  wrote, “Las Vegas gunman liked to gamble, listened to country music, and lived a quiet life before massacre.” While I went to check the article at a later time, the original headline, as shown in the image to the left, had been replaced with “Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock was a high-stakes gambler who ‘kept to himself’ before massacre”. Is this really any less human than the one taken down? In times of such despair, we should not minimize the severity of the situation by attempting to humanize this man.

According to Nevada Revised Statutes section 202.4415,  “‘Act of terrorism’ means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to: (a) Cause great bodily harm or death to the general   

population.” By Nevada state law, Stephen Paddock is a terrorist and Stephen Paddock’s actions are acts of terrorism. Stephen Paddock meant to cause harm to this massive group of people. TMZ goes on to report “Stephen Paddock Doesn’t Fit Mass Shooter Profile.” While TMZ does not disclose what they believe to be the profile of a mass shooter, they go on to list his age, the fact he committed the crime, and how he has both piloting and hunting licenses. Looking more into the topic, I discovered an article from newsweek.com linking to a chart from motherjones.com briefly describing every mass shooting in the US from 1982-2017.  According to this chart, since 1982 54% of the mass shootings in the US have been caused by white men, of which Paddock was one. The chart also says that many of the shooters have had past signs of mental illness, similar to Paddock. According to accounts from neighbors, Paddock was “reclusive,” “weird,” and “kept to himself.” To top it all off, Paddock’s father was on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list for being a fugitive bank robber. So while TMZ may not divulge its opinion on what a mass shooter looks like, it is apparent that its profile of a mass shooter is not entirely accurate.

In this situation, I feel it is important to remember, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then call it a duck. This man, by the law of Nevada, committed an act of terrorism. He is and should be called, a terrorist. 

 

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Defining a Terrorist