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Three years ago on Dec. 2, domestic terrorism struck in our area when a husband and wife shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 in San Bernardino. The frequency and devastation of mass shootings have increased each year since this attack.

shootings by year since 2015

Terrorism defined

How America has defined terrorism has changed many times. Under the USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism is defined as an act “dangerous to human life” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to:

  • intimidate or coerce a civilian population
  • influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion
  • affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping

Additionally, the act has to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. If it does not, it may be regarded as international terrorism.

Critics of the USA Patriot Act argue that the definition is too broad and could include actions by groups such as Greenpeace or Operation Rescue that could be defined as domestic terrorists through participation in civil disobedience on government property.

The worst years for fatalities due to domestic terrorism since 1995:

terror by year

Sources: FBI, MotherJones.com