This is one of the biggest questions being asked across news media and social media over the past week, and there are many different opinions.
We have all been following news reports since the shocking attack in Las Vegas last Sunday night – the deadliest shooting in recent US history – hoping investigators will tell us why… Why did a seemingly quiet, unassuming 64-year-old man stockpile so many firearms? Why would he want to kill anyone at all? How do we spot the warning signs and stop this from ever happening again?
Public figures, from politicians to pop stars, have called for the attack to be called terrorism because, “People were terrorised.” They were. We were. But as many are now asking, does that make it terrorism? The New Yorker is one of the many news publications saying it does not.
Governments each have their own definition of terrorism, but most – including our own UK government – the reason behind the attack makes all the difference. To quote a section of the definition from the Terrorism Act of 2000, an act of terrorism means: “…(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and (c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [racial] or ideological cause.”
Here at Safe Journey, we follow much the same guidelines. As you’ll see in our Policy Wording, we define it as follows:
An act of Terrorism means an act which either:
- a) has been declared as an act of Terrorism by either the UK Government or the government of the country where the act occurred; or
- b) where in the event of a delay in declaration by governments, acts which we believe should be covered under this policy, including but not limited to the use of force or violence, of any person or group(s) of persons, whether acting alone or on behalf of or in connection with any organisation(s) or government(s), committed for political, religious, ideological or ethnic purposes or reasons including the intention to influence any government and/or to put the public, or any section of the public, in fear for such purposes. Where we exercise this discretion we shall do so acting reasonably with the information available to us at the time.
What’s the harm in calling it terrorism?
Islamic State (IS/Isis/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the Las Vegas attack, but this has been refuted by investigators and the US government. Islamic State is reported to be losing power in its former strongholds, and the claim is seen by some as an attempt to appear more powerful.
Authorities have said that no links to any terrorist organisations have been found so far, and as we have seen with previous incidents, connections are usually uncovered within hours or days.
The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen argues that labelling a shooting such as the Las Vegas attack as terrorism, rather than a (no less despicable) crime, can raise the perpetrator, “from thug to enemy combatant.”
“Turning the inhumane, illogical, and often extralegal weapons of this war against yet more enemies would serve only to degrade our legal and political culture further,” Gessen continue; “It may also heighten the appeal of senseless violence, by imbuing it with meaning.”
We would hate to see a situation in which criminals call themselves terrorists in order to get support from groups such as IS, or even to convince themselves that their crimes have some sort of purpose. While we absolutely believe that terrorism must be dealt with very seriously, we certainly don’t want to help those groups create more fear.
How do we protect ourselves?
Crimes, much like terrorism, are difficult to predict. The same safeguards can help with safety though. For example, always report suspicious items or activity, no matter where you are, and if something does go wrong follow the Met Police’s advice: Run, Hide, Tell – this applies to any potentially dangerous situation, including a crime or an act of terrorism.
You can also ensure that you’re financially protected – not something anyone likes to think about, but the reality is that when any large incident takes place, it often results in direct and indirect effects – from delays and closed airports to injuries that require medical repatriation. You can top up with Safe Journey for comprehensive cover in case of terrorism*, but check your policy wording carefully regarding cover for situations such as criminal actions or natural disasters – speak to our sister company, OneStop4 for more information.
*Safe Journey terrorism travel insurance can be added to any travel insurance policy, from only £4.96 per person for a single trip of up to 8 days. Cover includes cancellation (disinclination to travel) if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks prior to your departure. For full details, as well as terms, conditions and exclusions, read our FAQs or Policy Wording.