Is the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting terrorism, a hate crime, or what?

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Suspect in Planned Parenthood shooting Robert L. Dear. Source: Colorado Springs, CO police department.

Suspect in Planned Parenthood shooting Robert L. Dear. Source: Colorado Springs, CO police department.

Suspect in Planned Parenthood shooting Robert L. Dear. Source: Colorado Springs, CO police department.

Suspect in Planned Parenthood shooting Robert L. Dear. Source: Colorado Springs, CO police department.

Warning/apology: This is an explanation of the legal differences between hate crimes and terrorism. It is not meant to diminish the tragedy. Unfortunately, this is a revision of a post following the shooting in Charleston. Dylan Roof has since been charged with hate crime, not terrorism. We should expect the same for Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people and left nine wounded in his attack Friday.

In our everyday language, the difference between a hate crime and terrorism is one of degree, not kind. A shooting of 12 people, three of whom died, seems too big to label as a normal crime. It seems like it must be terrorism.

Legally, however, hate crimes and terrorism differ in their intent. There can be small acts of terrorism and large, heinous acts that are hate crimes.

The term “hate crime” is a somewhat of a misnomer. Many crimes are driven by hate. A better term is “bias crime.” The distinguishing feature of a hate crime or bias crime is that the act is based on the perpetrator’s bias against a race, religion, or other group. A hate crime deprives someone of their life, liberty, or property based on who they are, and it often has the intent of intimidating others who look, act, or believe like the victim.

Terrorism is different. We often use terrorism to describe horrendous acts of violence that are committed on a larger scale than other crimes, but this isn’t the legal definition. Terrorism is defined a political crime against a government or the population. It has a political goal. It can be an attack on the government, as with the Oklahoma City bombing. In the Boston marathon bombing, it was an act against the population.

But simply: terrorism it is an act against America, but a hate crime targets victims because of their race, gender, or other immutable characteristic.

Sorting out whether a crime is a hate crime, terrorism, or simply a “normal” crime depends on the circumstances. Saying that the shooting is a hate crime and not an act of terrorism does not diminish the tragedy. Indeed, it says that people have civil rights that must be protected. A crime does not need to be an attack on the public to be something more than murder.

Whether or not the shooting in Colorado Springs is a hate crime will be something that can be established only after a full investigation. At this time, it is a crime that should be investigated as a hate crime that targeted a women’s health clinic.

Here’s a few facts that justify a hate crimes investigation:

  • It appears that the target was a women’s health clinic; the perpetrator was male.
  • The perpetrator reportedly referenced abortion and “baby parts.” Abortion is protected under a woman’s constitutional right of privacy.
  • There is a public perception that the crime was aimed at victims based on their involvement in women’s health.

There is always the chance that the shooting is not a hate crime.The investigation may uncover another motive for the crime. Perhaps the shooter knew the victims and targeted them out of personal animus. He may also suffer from mental illness. But the location and other immediate facts suggest that this is, legally, a hate crime.

This is certainly more than a random act of violence. I won’t argue with those who want to call it an act of terrorism—it’s a word that best fits the scope and violence of the tragedy. But when Robert Lewis Dear is charged, expect that the charges to include federal hate crimes, not terrorism.

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  • Juvenal451

    This most certainly IS an act of terrorism. Violence in support of the notion that first trimester fetuses are “babies”; i.e., small human persons, from the moment of conception.

  • John McGrath

    it was a political crime, driven by the lies of that God-loving, lie-loving film maker who deliberately doctored the video to promote hysteria about planned parethood selling “baby parts.” The killer was heard to mutter “No more selling baby parts.,” Christians and their propaganda lies will answer to God for serving Satan, the Father of lies. So will lieing Fox News which reported the rampage as an attack on ahe nearby bank.

  • Jon

    The FBI definition of terrorism shows that this is an act of terrorism.

    From your own link, here is the definition of terrorism (you could have just pasted this).
    “the unlawful use of force or 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.”

    Taking this apart:
    “unlawful use of force against persons or property” — Yes.
    ” to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.” — Yes.

    The second part is the only part we disagree on. These attacks on abortion providers seem to clearly be to intimidate for the furtherance of political and social objectives – specifically, to stop abortions.

    That’s pretty clearly terrorism, by the FBI definition.
    Christian privilege: Your terrorism is explained away, while other’s is called terrorism.

    [/ article]…

  • alison

    The man was clearly mentally ill. I don’t know that he had the capacity to commit either a hate crime or an act of terrorism. I think there is also a third possibility, if it was an act of terrorism, it was designed to create a prevent a greater act of terrorism that goes on inside PP. To do something evil to prevent something that is a greater evil. Just FYI, I would never do that, but I am aware of people in my past who were slightly unbalanced who would be willing to take that approach.

  • Jon

    Christian privilege: You can be assured that terrorism by those of your faith will be explained away, with phrases such as “mentally unstable”, or “a string of isolated incidents”, while terrorism by members of other faiths will be labeled terrorism and portrayed by the media as part of a pattern inspired by their faith.

    When you are accustomed to privilege, equal treatment feels like oppression.

  • Bingo

    This sounds more like domestic terrorism, much as I dislike the Big Abortion racket, and this man sounds and looks like a nutter. This violence helps neither the right to life cause nor those deceived into thinking they are serving humanity by taking the lives of pre-borns.

  • Pablo

    He’s white and Christian. Therefore this is merely a “hate crime by a single crazed loner”. You cannot be a terrorist unless you are non-white and non-Christian. Duh.

  • alison

    When you look at the guy’s face and eyes, is there ANYTHING that looks mentally stable to you?

  • alison

    Pretty sure the guy is not a Christian. Because true Christians simply do not do this. As opposed to other religions, Christianity is completely in opposition to killing.

  • Larry

    You can be pretty sure because Christians like yourself don’t want to own up to how such violence is condoned by extremists among you. Especially the anti-abortion crowd. Hence the minimizing and pretending such acts are not a form of terrorism. Christians almost never own up to the negative elements to their own faith.

    Fundamentalist Christians deliberately defamed Planned Parenthood with phony videos of “baby part selling”. Videos which struck a chord with this guy. L1es done for the “righteous cause” of creating barriers to the ability to obtain medically safe abortions.

    “Christianity is completely in opposition to killing.”

    Unless it is done on behalf of the faith. The number of outright pacifist sects of Christianity are no more than a handful. The number of sects which condone violent actions in the name of righteousness number in the hundreds.

  • Jon

    Do you say the same thing about other terrorists? Does that change the fact that their acts are terrorism?

  • Larry

    “We have to create an anti-abortion registry and shut down evangelical churches if we are to prevent future terrorist attacks such as this!”
    -Not one conservative politician ever, but follows their line of thinking.

    We only ask the “terrorism, hate crime or what?” question when the person committing the mayhem is white and christian.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    If he says he’s a Christian, then he’s a Christian, end of story. Religion is something people affiliate toward. All kinds of people say they’re Christians while advocating things Christ never would, like all seventy eleven candidates for the Republican nomination.

  • Douglas Carlson

    There is not a thing about his appearance that would make me think he is mentally stable. Could I be fooled? Sure. Insanity would be an easy defense for him. Irrespective of his motive, he has little hurt PP nor helped the Pro life side of the discussion.

  • Debbo

    The thing is, both things are true:

    1. Christianity is a religion of peace. Christians do wonderful things in and for the world.
    2. Terrible acts have been done, and are still being done in the name of Christianity, by Christians and for Christians.

    Every religion can say the same. In this Islam and Christianity are in the same boat. More Muslims, including their leadership, have strongly and loudly condemned the terrorism committed in their name. They get only a small amount of media attention however.

    Here in Minnesota we have one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. They abhor the demented distortion of their faith. They are working very hard against terrorism and are heartbroken when when young Muslim women and men go to the Middle East to participate in the terrorism via Daesh, al Qaida and others.

    I believe, but am less certain, that the majority of Christians abhor the terrorism committed in their name by terrorists like Dear and other white…

  • Larry’

    Of course they help the anti-abortion crowd. It puts abortion providers and supporters of abortion rights in the state of fear. Something people like yourself want them in. It shows that the anti-abortion crowd are people to be feared for their lack of reasonable behavior or moral limits.

    After all we already know the anti-abortion crowd are willing to 1ie in service of their beliefs, demonize people, make open threats of violence in public, carry it out, and find socially acceptable excuses for it. This kind of violence is simply the logical end result of their rhetoric and actions.

  • John McGrath

    Plenty of white Christians are applauding what he did. And so are the politicians they support. Pro-life looks pretty pro-evil from here. And who do you think listens to the liars at Fox News, which has been reporting that he attacked a bank, not Planned Parenthood? White Christians.

  • Be Brave

    Jesus, as God (of course) spoke into the future to the goofiness of the “No True Scotsman” idea.

    Jesus made it very clear that there are measurements to who is a Christian and who and what is not. There is a measurement to who needs to repent from being not a Christian when they have “accepted Christ as Lord and Savior) and to those that are not a Christian (of the world and its ways).

    The standard model does not want to “test all things” and is comfortable to stay outside of the “true faith.”

    But with no doubt about it, followers of Jesus the Messiah have done evil and must do as prescribed by Jesus to get straight. Or, rather, get back on the straight (and narrow) path. No true Christian stays on the wide and worldly path with a conscience to keep them wandering there. Per Jesus . . . –

    To rebut with the “No True Scotsman Theory” may make the anti-Christian feel really smart, but when tested, it is silliness on display.

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  • Larry

    Why don’t you ask Jesus right now who is a Christian?
    Jesus: (No answer)

    Oh well, there goes that notion. Until Jesus walks among us and can deliver his opinion here, one is SOL when it comes to defining who are his followers.

    The test is simple. If one identifies themselves as Christian, they are one for all intents and purposes. Especially when they do something which garners them notoriety.

  • Larry

    “When you look at the guy’s face and eyes, is there ANYTHING that looks mentally stable to you?”

    More reasons conservatives should go eff themselves when it comes to this sort of thing.

    First off is the rhetoric and constant excuses for bad behavior if the victim is related to Planned Parenthood.

    Second is the wholesale dismantling of the mental health system conservatives began 30 years ago in an effort to be “fiscally responsible”. There would be far more crazy people getting proper treatment or not being a danger to themselves or others if not for the complete lack of desire by conservatives to take mental illness seriously as a public health concern.

  • Jon

    His ex-wife says he’s Christian, extremely evangelistic, and expects Jesus to come soon. What a surprise! .

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  • John McGrath

    Obviously whoever hates the same people as our ever truculent Christian is a Christian. No hate, not a Christian.