Is The Tucson Tragedy Terrorism?

The shooting carried out against Congress woman Giffords and others around her by Jared Lee Loughner is a horrific event that has shocked the nation.  The attack that occurred on January 8th, 2011 in a Safeway grocery store parking lot in Tucson, Arizona has become known as the Tucson Tragedy. It is definitely a traumatic event but can this act be classified as act of terrorism?  When posed with this question it is hard to come up with a quick answer.

At first thought, the word terrorism brings to mind an image of an Islamic extremist carrying AK-47s and suicide bombers usually carrying out an attack on a large population.  The term terrorism is a hard word to define and there are many interpretations to the meaning of it. The definition that comes to my mind is a person or group of people trying to instill fear in a population and to show their government cannot protect them. Some may argue that the shooting rampage was an act of terrorism such as Jesse Jackson and others argue that it was purely a tragedy as mentioned in the speech given by President Barrack Obama. The President goes on further to state in his speech “For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.” Nowhere in his remarks does he use the word terrorism or terrorist.

The image seen in our heads when thinking about terrorism is one that has been molded and shaped by the media and the government. Most recently terrorism has been most associated with the terror organization Al Qaeda headed by Osama Bin Laden, originating from the Middle East region of the World.  This can cause many people to only connect terrorism as an act that is carried out by foreigners against the United States and not by people within the country.  So when events such as the “Tucson Tragedy” take place most people do not see it as an act of terror but just some nut case on the loose on a bloody rampage.

The targets of the shooting were political officials that included a United States Congresswoman, a federal judge, their staff, and as well as innocent bystanders.  Due to the positions of these officials and a letter that was found in a safe owned by Jared Loughner from Representative Giffords with the words “Die, bitch” and “Die, cops” written across of it, it is understandable why many people would classify this act as terrorism. However, Jared Loughner has yet to be charged with terrorism and has been formally charged with the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing a federal employee, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. Other murder and attempted murder charges are expected to be filed for the non-congress and federal employee victims. It is still unclear why he has not been formally charged with terrorism by authorities, this may be because Jared’s motives for the killings are still unclear and there is still an ongoing investigation.

 Although there is no real definitive definition of terrorism most define it as an act carried out against people for religious and ideological reasons.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA define terrorism as the use of force or violence against a person or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom.  As you can see there truly is no specific definition of this term which makes it tough to completely understand.

 Whether or not the “Tucson Tragedy” can be determined an act of terrorism is to first find out what Jared Loughner’s motives were for the attack.  Was he an extreme Islamist? Was he part of a domestic terror organization? Or was he just a mentally ill person on a rampage that day?  Until his motives behind the events are uncovered it is difficult to really determine whether or not the shootings that day was an act of terror driven by extreme religious ideologies; or whether or not it was just a man that needed mental medical treatment who simply gone untreated and lost it.

Works Cited

“General Information About Terrorism.” The Departent of Homeland Security. 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <>.

Jackson, Jesse. “View Tucson as Act of Terrorism.” Politico. 14 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <>.

Obama, Barrack. “Http://” ABC News/Polical. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <>.

“Terrorism 2002-2005.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <>.

Marc, Thiessen. “Jared Loughner’s Hate Came before the Tea Party.” The Washinton Post. 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <>.