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OPINION: Las Vegas Massacre Wasn't ISIS, But Why Are We Afraid To Call It A Terror Attack?

Gunman's motives still unclear

OPINION: Las Vegas Massacre Wasn't ISIS, But Why Are We Afraid To Call It A Terror Attack? Getty/Twitter

A motive for the Las Vegas massacre, now being labelled the worst shooting in US history, is yet to be identified. But why are we so afraid to call the attack out for what it is - terrorism?



At least 59 people died at the hands of 64-year-old Stephen Paddock. More than 500 people are injured, many critically. A police raid on Paddock's residence turned up a whopping 18 firearms. There were a further ten firearms with him in the 32nd floor room of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the massacre took place.

But is it terrorism? 

While an individual took it upon themselves to intentionally harm hundreds of innocent people - even US President Donald Trump didn't use the term, instead describing it as an "act of pure evil" involving the "senseless murder" of Americans


Why do we only label some horrific international incidents as terrorism? 

The Oxford Dictionary defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims".

Nevada law, however, suggests an act of terrorism means "any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence, which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population".

"There's motivating factors associated with terrorism other than a distraught person intending to cause mass casualties," said Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo.

"Before we label it with that, it will be a matter of process."

Georgetown University Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman said we do have a tendency to label anything we abhor as terrorism.

"Prematurely labelling an incident terrorism can have enormous legal and operational ramifications. But the label can change, as investigators uncover more details about an attacker’s history and potential clues into the person’s political ideology," Hoffman told Business Insider Australia.

Should we call the Las Vegas shooting terrorism? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.