US School Shooters and Mass Killers are Domestic Terrorists: change the detention laws, not the gun laws

16 Mar

Students marching in protest around the country against school shootings!

By Mike McGee

In each of the latest US mass murders, including the one in Florida, the killers had clearly telegraphed their intention to do what they did. The police did not feel they had the authority to detain them, so the killers acted within a day or two of being released without detention.

These scenarios are not the fault of the police, and not the fault of guns, and not the fault of foreign political terrorists. It’s our laws that are way out of date. At the federal and state levels we need to rewrite the laws to take account of the ongoing situation inside the United States.

It’s refreshing to see students march all over the country to protest the ongoing wave of domestic mass murders, many in schools. They know something needs to be done. They think they know the single solution to the problem: stop gun sales. They would be more credible if the students marched in protest of the wave of mass shootings and simply demanded that their government find ways to address the domestic danger.

There is no one solution that will stop these domestic mass murders. I’m going to propose that Congress and state legislators have been wishy-washy about confronting domestic terrorists and passing tough laws to detain and control them before they act. Here’s one way to close the jagged holes in the laws.

The federal and state laws governing terrorism fall into a terrific state of confusion and fail when applied to US mass murders by individuals not affiliated with foreign terrorist groups.

“Officials at the White House and the FBI, so far, have been reluctant to use the terms terrorism or terrorist in connection with the Charleston church shooting. FBI Director James Comey in June 2015 explained why he does not believe Dylan Roof’s alleged crime fits the legal definition. “Terrorism is an act done or threatened to in order to try to influence a public body or the citizenry, so it’s more of a political act and then, again, based on what I know so far, I don’t see it as a political act.” But while the definition may be correct, says Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed, the conclusion is flawed. One thing is clear: If Roof had set off a bomb rather than using a 45-caliber handgun we might not be having this debate. Incidents involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) — no matter domestic or international — are more clear-cut, says former US Attorney Michael Sullivan. “It is an act of terrorism.”

So, our greatest law enforcement officials get completely bollixed when the weapon used is a gun rather than a bomb. Up to now the crime of “Domestic Terrorism” has been swallowed up and devalued in law and practice, overcome by the search for foreign terrorists. This is not all bad, since law enforcement has been able to largely stop foreign terrorism in the country.

Now it’s time to increase the prominence of the crime of Domestic Terrorism, and legally re-define this term in a way which is consistent with what has worked well in dealing with foreign terrorists. Give Domestic Terrorism its own set of laws and rules so that citizens and authorities will have the power to stop school shooters and mass murderers before they commit their vile and heinous acts.

There is a long-term crime wave in the land, and as such the Constitution permits us to use the police power to stop this crime wave of domestic shooters.

Local police in particular need federal and state laws that will give them clear authority to conduct surveillance, arrest potential mass killers during their planning stages, and hold them indefinitely without bond. Right now, a local policeman who acts aggressively in these areas may be accused of police misconduct. We need to give these dedicated officers the ability to act as decisively as if they were confronting a bank robber. We might even want to give local police access to the FISA court for search and arrest warrants.

Agencies such as the NSA need to refine their key word searches of social media to identify those local people who might be making plans for a mass murder event. Their hits should be transmitted instantly to the state or local police, who must be empowered by law to investigate and detain domestic terrorists.

Federal authorities, including the FBI, the alphabet security agencies, park rangers and others, have always been confused about their need or authority to act in a domestic mass murder. We need to give them by law clear authority to investigate and intervene in potential acts of mass murder before the fact, just as they do for foreign terrorism.

It should be a felony in every state, and in federal law, for an individual or a group to actively plan or plot, with words or actions, to commit mass murder: held without bond and receiving up to twenty years in prison. This crime should be labeled Domestic Terrorism.

Other things to do

  1. There are a few other things which can be done to reduce the threat of Domestic Terrorism. One is to redefine the definitions in mental health proceedings to permit the indefinite detention of anyone who has shown a danger to self or others in words or actions of intent to commit an act of domestic terrorism. Such persons should be turned over to the police rather than being released, if they are found not to be mentally ill. It should be noted that a person who visualizes shooting up a school is clearly a danger to themselves, as they are almost by definition planning to die or go to jail. Don’t wait until they are an active danger to others!
  2. Another thing is that schools should at least harden classroom doors. If there’s a shooter, and most of the doors are securely closed, he’s limited in his field of killing, and can be located more easily.
  3. I know this is controversial, but I would like for students in middle and high school to be taught some smart methods of searching for the shooter, finding open exits or safe places for others, and fighting back. No one should be required to train to search and fight, only those who are motivated, and especially the football and basketball teams. When I was in middle and high school I would have wanted to know how to search and fight back. I wouldn’t have liked the idea of only turning and fleeing, even back then. Fighting back without being stupid is a good life lesson for young people. Aaron Feis, assistant football coach at Parkland, Florida’s high school, was one of the few who fought back, and saved the lives of at least 19 students. When you fight back you may not always live through it, and yet if you’re not doing it stupidly it’s worth doing.
  4. I have no doubt some teachers and school staff could be armed without incident. The problem is that with a large number of armed teachers, there’s a potential for shots being fired at a false alarm. Also, in a real situation the teacher may shoot someone who’s not the shooter.


From Copyright © 2018 by Michael H. McGee. All commercial rights reserved. Non-commercial or news and commentary site re-use or re-posting is encouraged. Please feel free to share all or part, hopefully with attribution.


One Response to “US School Shooters and Mass Killers are Domestic Terrorists: change the detention laws, not the gun laws”

  1. Brenda May 4, 2021 at 3:23 pm #

    Hey Mike: Sure hope you are doing well and looking forward to life as usual again.

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