How Nevada Law Defines Terrorism
October 1, 2017 marked the day when Stephen Paddock, former accountant and real estate agent, opened fire on 20,000 people participating in the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival at the Las Vegas Strip. The shooting cost lives of 59 individuals, injured 851, and prompted the entire nation to take a closer look at the security and gun laws of the state and the country.
Currently, it remains to be the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the America and Las Vegas and its state of Nevada is put into a difficult position of putting a clear explanation to the act and providing an immediate action about the existing laws.
Terrorism is a sensitive and broad topic. To learn more about it or if you are unfortunately falsely accused of planning or having committed it, get the help of a defense attorney in Las Vegas.
What Counts as Terrorism?
Chapter 202 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) titled Crimes against Public Health and Safety defined terrorism as:
“Any act that involves the use of violence intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”
Despite its evident disturbance to the community, the Las Vegas shooting is quickly dismissed by officials as an act of terrorism. Las Vegas Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) argued that the shooting is an isolated case of mass murder as Paddock is a local resident and is not linked to any organized terrorist groups. The outpour of tweets from government executives that vigilantly avoided using the word “terrorism” and used “lone wolf” as a replacement to the word “terrorist” supports this claim.
Under Nevada Law, there can be a chance of it being classified as a terrorist attack but under the federal law, it is a little more difficult to be so as Stephen Paddock’s belief system and political views is not known by the time of the shooting. Federal law only recognizes terrorism as a violent act created to change society’s political and religious views and when they are done by non-nationals.
Still, it caused great distress to people and is a clear reflection of what NRS described as any deed of violence that causes harm to a group of people.
The Sparking Debate
The police force and the government declaring the mass shooting as nothing more than an orchestrated crime incited heated discussions among the Congress, social media netizens, and the rest of the country and not just about mislabeling it but the double standard that underlies it. Many had pointed out that when white individuals are accused, they are branded only as murderers but if foreigners especially of an Arabic descent is the suspect, they are automatically categorized as terrorists.
Some called out that it is time to take a new approach when looking what terrorism really is, pointing out that terrorism is terrorism no matter the skin color of the perpetrator. Before even the shooting, Randall Law, author of Terrorism: A History stated that there is a racial component to why the government is very reluctant to condemn domestic terror attacks. Masha Gessen on The New Yorker pointed out, “The fact that people are terrorized doesn’t necessarily mean that an act of terror has been committed.”
Late show host Jimmy Kimmel also had a say on the debate, citing out that Americans do nothing if the culprit is from the inside but and rebutted that “when it's a man in a beard, we take action, make travel bans, build walls.”
Another issue deliberated on is the gun laws of Nevada. In Nevada, you do not need permit to carry heavy firearms such as rifles and shotguns except in Las Vegas where they need to be licensed. A lot of citizens questioned how one man was able to smuggle bags of firearms and bullets inside a supposedly secured hotel like the MGM Grand, hinting at the flimsy regulations on the deadly weapons. Due to this matter, support for banning bump stocks became stronger with Massachusetts finally prohibiting them in November 2017.
On the other hand, speculations such as the government arranging the mass shooting were quickly shot down by authorities.
It was previously established that Paddock is believed to have been working alone and has no ties to any terrorist or extremity groups and this still seems to be the truth as extensive investigation goes on. The most recent news about the shooting is that MGM Resorts is rejecting accountability of the crime and is now suing the victims through the Safety Act of 2002 that puts liabilities to the federal state rather than where the crime is executed.
Southern Nevada employs an anti-terrorism front through the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center (SNCTC) and to strengthen its forces after the mass shooting, Las Vegas received a $5 million grant that is destined to help protect the state from future terror attacks.
If Accused of Terrorism
Terrorism is a terrible thing to be accused of especially if you are a person of color. However as mentioned before, terrorism is a touchy subject matter and there are enough leeway in the case that you can use as defenses to prove your innocence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ross C. Goodman
Ross C. Goodman is a Criminal Defense lawyer in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Copyright Ross C. Goodman, Esq.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.