Domestic Terrorism in the Land of the Free

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Updated: Mar 17, 2019
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Domestic Terrorism in the Land of the Free essay


Banks (2017) defined terrorism as “a systematic use of coerce intimidationit is used to create and explicit fear among a wider target group and to publicize a cause, as well as to coerce a target to acceding to the terrorists’ claims (p. 286-287). Terrorism has been a tactic used since the twentieth century. The attack of September 11, 2001, on the North American soil was considered a terroristic attack from foreign enemies. There have been recent terror attacks including the New York bombings, University of North Carolina vehicle attack, and Ohio State University knife and vehicle attack. These incidents were defined as terroristic attacks; however, when a White male commits the crime of a mass shooting or killing of two African Americans with a knife, he is not labeled as a terrorist. The judicial system and law enforcement cease to reveal a White male as a terrorist; however, they consider a foreigner or ethnic criminal as someone who is a terrorist.

Keywords: terrorist, threat assessment, zero-tolerance approach, mass shootings, school, knife, fear, psychological, mental illnesses, White male, and African American

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Domestic Terrorism in the Land of the Free

According to Sundhaussen (2004), terror is defined as “extreme fear and a terrorists is “one who favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing or coercing government or community (p. 6). Former United States of America President George W. Bush gave an address to Congress nine days after the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001, on North American soil (Tilly, 2004). Bush stated, “our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated (Tilly, 2004, p. 5). Tilly (2004) stated, “terrorists respect no limits, geographical or moral. Terrorism not only kills peopleit destabilizes regions (p. 5). According to Tilly (2004), former President Bush and the secretary of state both agreed that terror, terrorist, and terrorism are enemies that must be eradicated.

Keeney and Winterfeldt (2010) believed that the main objectives of terrorists are to kill a large number of people in Western countries, destabilize their economies, and instill fear and insecurity in their population. Furthermore, “the actions of terrorists may be a way to draw attention to their plight or to recruit followers (Keeney and Winterfeldt, 2010, p. 1803). Even though North America sociologists, psychologists, and political professionals have focused their attention on foreign terrorists, local and national terrorism have become more prevalent in North America in the recent years. Notably, mass shootings and terroristic stabbing have been the two common acts of terrorism on the North American population. As stated, former President George W. Bush and the secretary of state agreed that terror, terrorist, and terrorism are enemies that must be eradicated of global reach (Tilly, 2004).

According to Singh (1998), “gun control has emerged as a divisive and polarising issue of substantial consequence (p. 289). Furthermore, Fritz (2015) stated, “gun control is a contentious issue that puts liberals against conservatives, urban dwellers against those who live in rural areas, and gun owners against gun haters (p. 8). Further, Fritz introduced the controversial idea that if there were no guns, then there would be no shooting. Further, if individuals have restricted access to guns, there will be fewer shootings (Fritz, 2015). Unfortunately, mass shootings have increased because White male individuals have continued to engage in mass shootings in North America in school settings, specifically. Some psychologists and sociologists believe that mass shootings carried out by White males occur due to mental disturbances, while other professionals have contrary beliefs. The government and law enforcement have claimed that White males suffer from psychological disorders when they have engaged in terroristic events. However, a foreign individual is considered a terrorist, automatically, if he indulges in mass murder behaviors.

According to Sarwono (2008), a psychiatrist, Dr. Hare, developed criteria of psychopathic personality disorder and concluded that terroristic bombers were not categorized as psychopaths. However, Dr. Fritz stated two contradicting statements about one’s neuropsychology that opposed and agreed with Dr. Hare. Dr. Fritz said, “mentally ill individuals are not violent and are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. However, it is also true that virtually all school shooters have shown signs of serious psychological problems (Fritz, 2015, p.8). According to Sarwono (2008), Dr. Hare conducted studies that proved the bomber did not have a mental illness or any psychological disturbances. Therefore, terrorists do not have mental illnesses; they have the objective to instill fear in various populated regions. “The inference is that there is a common factor amongst school shootings and terrorism. Second, they are also linked by promoting fear (Altheide, 2009, p. 1360). White males commit terroristic acts to instill fear in communities, cause an uproar, or gain followers to encourage an increase in mass murders.

According to Collier (2013), Dave Cullen stated,

We should not jump to conclusions about mass murderers. Dylan Klebold was an extreme and rare case. A vast majority of depressives are a danger to only themselves. Of the tiny fraction of people who commit mass murders, most are not psychopaths like Eric Harris or deeply mentally-ill like Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech. Far more often, they are suicidal and deeply depressed (p.82).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), suicide is death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with an intent to die as a result of the behavior. Even though Cullen claimed that individuals, who committed mass murders, were not psychopaths, he argued that they are suicidal and deeply depressed, which indicates their desire to cause harm to themselves. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who commit mass murders are not suicidal. These individuals “claim more than their share of innocent lives (Collier, 2013, p. 83). Collier (2013) argued, “gun violence is the province of perfectly ‘normal’ people who simply have no better outlet for their anger, fear, frustration, or aggression (p. 83). Therefore, White males, specifically, who commit the crime of mass shooting, are not psychologically ill, depressed, or suicidal; they are individuals who desire to instill fear and terror amongst people in a society. Furthermore, if an individual is suffering from psychological disorders and mental illnesses, he should be restricted and penalized for attempting to purchase a firearm. Additionally, law enforcement and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act should create and implement measures that identify individuals who have been diagnosed with mental disorders and illnesses when attempting to buy a firearm. When a person is identified as an individual who cannot purchase a firearm, it will decrease the number of mass shootings by people who are labeled as “psychopaths.

Additionally, Oksanen et al. (2015) describe the threat assessment and zero-tolerance approach used on students in educational settings. The threat assessment “considers the seriousness of reported threats of violence and underlines contextual, social, and psychological factors (Oksanen et al., 2015, p. 146). The psychological approach collects information concerning the warning behaviors of students. According to Oksanen et al. (2015), the zero-tolerance approach includes the use of force and transfers the responsibility of the pupil into the care of investigative teams who are not familiar with the student. The United States of America and Germany have implemented the threat assessment and zero-tolerance policies; however, the occurrence of mass shootings have spiked in recent years. Oksanen et al. argued, “the only threats that are reported to the police are the ones that are considered obviously serious and psychiatric and psychological treatment are provided when it is appropriate” (Oksanen et al., 2015, p.147). Therefore, “US high school hitting, stabbings, and shootings are prevalent (Oksanen et al., 2015, p. 147). There is a discrepancy in the fact that psychological evaluations and attention are given only when professionals believe it is necessary. Every student that shows the possibility of threatening and endangering students should undergo psychological assessments and guidance. If a student is not assessed and commits a terroristic act, he may become traumatized from his own actions, which may cause psychological disturbances after the terroristic event. Trauma that is caused by the suspect creates difficulty for psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose the perpetrator accurately before the mass shootings. Therefore, Oksanen et al. (2015) weakens the claims made by researchers who claim White males, who have killed many innocent people, suffer from psychological disturbances and mental illnesses.

Further, researchers have conducted studies that portrayed that the “knife is one of the weapons most commonly used among terrorists (Merin et al. (2017, p. 451). “Terror attacks are targeted mostly against civilians with the intent to produce grave injuries to unprepared innocent people (Merin et al. 2017, p. 452). Merin et al. (2017) argued that terror attacks are usually performed on civilians, without any visible cause for violence on the part of the perpetrator. Merin et al. (2017) continued to differentiate between the criminal act of violence and terroristic characteristics. Merin et al. (2017) claimed that criminal acts of violence entail the performance of causing violence and fleeing the scene. However, terrorists attack more than one person and have no desire for survival, and so often make attempts to escape, while continuing to thrust the weapon until forced to surrender. According to Stevens and Garcia (2018), a White male, known as John Lee Cowell, viciously attacked two African Americans with a knife at a train station in Oakland California on July 22, 2018. The African American teenager died at the train station, while her sister survived from the knife wound. Even though Lee committed the crime and killed one of the females, he is not labeled and categorized as a terrorist. However, a bystander stated, “the stabbing was senseless and horrific (Stevens and Garcia, 2017). This indicates the terror and fear among the community due to the horrendous acts of a White male. Therefore, the White male should be labeled, convicted, and punished as an individual who committed a terroristic attack in a community.

Terrorism is a systematic use of coerce intimidationit is used to create and explicit fear among a wider target group and to publicize a cause, as well as to coerce a target to acceding to the terrorists’ claims (Banks, 2017). Most of the American research has focused on foreigners who commit terroristic acts. However, the decrease in gun control, increase in mass shootings, and disagreements about psychological disorders have had an impact on the perspective and favoritism towards White males. Statistics have shown that White males have committed more mass shootings in North America than any other race and ethnicity. The occurrence of mass shooting events have induced fear among people and caused parents, family members, and friends to worry about their safety in schools, theaters, and churches. Further, the individuals who commit the crimes of mass shootings are not considered terrorists. Even though White males kill a copious amount of innocent people, the media does not alter the audiences’ perspectives and views of those individuals as domestic enemies and terrorists. Therefore, the media has an influence on the recurrence of mass shootings and terroristic actions. If individuals were labeled as terrorists through the news and media, there would be a decrease in the number of White males who decide to shoot and kill many innocent people in a community.


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  2. Banks, Cyndi. (2017). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, Inc.
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Domestic Terrorism in the Land of the Free. (2019, Mar 17). Retrieved from