Las Vegas Massacre Prompts Question Over Terrorism Laws

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (CBSMiami) — The Las Vegas massacre is not being called terrorism and some say it is time to change the law.

This week we have seen a nation can be terrified without the cause necessarily labeled terrorism.

“So I think it’s time for a variety of reasons to have a domestic terror criminal statute,” said former federal prosecutor Mary McCord.

Currently there is a criminal statute for international terrorism but not domestic.

McCord thinks in an era of mass casualties it is time that changed.

“Violent extremism isn’t limited to Islamist extremism or extremism that’s done on behalf of at the direction of a foreign terror organization,” said McCord.

With no specific penalties on the books for domestic terrorism, mass killers like Timothy McVeigh face charges of using a weapon of mass destruction or Dylann Roof who faced murder and weapons charges.

The label domestic terrorism makes the motive clear, says McCord, now at Georgetown Law.

“It shows the significance of this type of a crime and why it’s important for it to be looked at and treated for what it is, which is terror. It’s an intent. It’s a crime done for the very purpose of terrorizing people,” said McCord.

A federal domestic terror law would also mean FBI-led investigations and the creation of deeper, wider databases to keep track of mass-violence.

But there’s a potential problem: labelling domestic hate groups as terrorists – like Al Qaeda or ISIS raises constitutional questions.

“Certainly that starts to get very close to the line of potentially infringing on free speech, on first amendment rights, freedom to associate and express one’s views however abhorrent they may be to others in the population,” said McCord.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department considered creating a domestic terrorism statute.

The Trump administration has not said if it’s continuing the work.

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