More mass shootings should be labeled terrorism, AU prof says

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re learning new details after a series of mass shootings.

The National Gun Violence Archive reports at least five nationwide. The deadliest is in Buffalo, N.Y., where an 18-year-old is accused of killing 10 people at a supermarket on May 14.

Investigators say he specifically targeted the store in a predominantly Black community. He’s charged with first-degree murder and is likely to face federal hate crime and domestic terror charges.

The shooter pleaded not guilty to all charges.

There have been more than 200 U.S. mass shootings in 2022, but only a handful of those will be labeled “terrorism.”

We spoke to a local professor about when mass shootings are classified as acts of terrorism.

Dr. Lance Hunter, associate professor in political science at Augusta University, said: “Taking these mass shootings seriously as potential forms of terrorism when they fit the definition is so important to try and stop them.”

Hunter analyzed 105 mass shootings from 1982 through 2018 to find out if those shootings fit the definition of terrorism.

“We made the strong argument that a lot of these acts, a little under half, were acts of terrorism but were not labeled as such,” said Hunter.

He says the mass shootings in 2014 at UC Santa Barbra and the Charleston church shooting were the inspiration behind this study. Neither of those was originally labeled as acts of terrorism even though they met the criteria.

“The motivation entails political-religious, social or ideological components,” he said.

Hunter found many of these shootings are not labeled correctly as terrorism and are often not taken seriously when there are warning signs beforehand.

“If someone is exposing extremist ideological combined with threatening to harm other people physically and violently they have to be surveilled, and they have to be monitored and considered a potential terrorist,” he said.

Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, Hunter classifies Buffalo’s shooting as domestic terrorism.

“If someone is targeting a group based on their race, ethnicity, or any type of social characteristic this can be both a hate crime and an act of terrorism,” he said.


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