Center for Strategic Communication

On The Hill Blog, ASP Adjunct Fellow and associate professor of history at Birmingham-Southern College, Randell Law  wrote about “lone-wolf terrorism”  and understanding the motives behind mass shootings



Randell noted:

Mass shootings this summer in Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, horrified Americans and re-kindled debates over gun control, public security, and mental health. They have also focused attention on so-called “lone wolves,” individuals who commit atrocities without material support from an organization. Authorities, news organizations, and our public discourse have denounced the two perpetrators as deranged criminals and domestic terrorists. What lies behind these declarations?

He went on to say:

Some scholars have questioned whether a “one-off” act of violence committed without the support of a group is really terrorism. In fact, the history of the United States and the world is full of such behavior. In 1995, for example, Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. This terrorist was motivated by a hatred of the federal government and consorted with anti-government “militias” and white supremacist groups – but joined none of them.

In conclusion he wrote:

While only the individual who pulls the trigger or lights the fuse usually ends up indicted – assuming he or she survives the event – terrorist violence does not take place in a vacuum. Whatever the proximate cause, lone wolf terrorists almost always act on radical variations of grudges that are held by a surprisingly large number of people. For the citizens of a society that rightly values freedom of speech, the rule of law, and the principle of individual responsibility, how we decide to act on this observed link between violent rhetoric and behavior will likely be more a matter of morality than legality.


You can read the full article here