The Las Vegas shooter was no lone wolf – he was a white terrorist

Jessica Smith argues that if America is to start taking gun control seriously, it must first rectify double standards in its justice system

After the Las Vegas tragedy, the White House said it’s not the time to talk about gun control. “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on,” the President said. Yet we know that far more are killed in the US by guns than in twisted acts supposedly in the name of Islam. In 2017 alone, there have been 273 mass shootings and 11,671 deaths due to gun violence. Why are guns not more heavily regulated? The answer lies in the institutionalised racism in the USA.

The acts of Stephen Paddock should be defined as terrorism, but Trump focused on his possible mental health issues, calling him: “a sick man, a demented man”. At the heart of the problem is avoiding the term ‘terrorist’. According to the media, the attack’s white perpetrator is not a terrorist, but a ‘lone shooter’.

Nevada’s law defines terrorism as “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”. Killing 59 and injuring more than 500 seems to fit this definition. If Paddock had any connection to the Muslim world, his motive would be ‘jihad’ or ‘Islamic terrorism’. The underlying judgement is that being a white American means individual action, separate from the civilised society, while Muslim identity is associated with foreign collective dangerous action. While fully innocent Muslim communities are unfairly expected to condemn extremists, the white population of America is not expected to apologise on behalf of Paddock’s actions.

This flagrant double standard demonstrates that racism lies at the heart of gun control opposition. This bias is even embedded in law. The classification of terrorism cases under federal law is done with reference to a list of 60 terror organisations, the vast majority of which are active in Muslim-majority countries. Islamophobia is enshrined in the law. Domestic terrorism rarely triggers higher penalties. Such institutionalised and ingrained Islamophobia will stop many domestic terrorists from being identified for what they are.

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A 2012 study showed racial resentment is highly correlated with gun ownership. Meanwhile, Congress does not permit the Center for Disease Control to research gun violence.

Adding universal background checks and increased firearm prohibitions for those with a history of violence does not disrespect the Second Amendment: it guarantees that the it is taken seriously and responsibly.

Gun regulation does not confiscate guns from licensed, law-abiding Americans. Racism continues to infiltrate gun control policy and allows ‘lone shooters’ to commit acts of terrorism while guns remain fully accessible.