Proposal calls for treating mass shooters as terrorists

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Lawmakers are desperate to address mass shootings. No one can really blame them for wanting to find something they can do to address the problem, either. They’re getting tremendous pressure from their colleagues, the media, and their constituents.

A new proposal, however, puts the focus on the mass shooters themselves, for a change.

That’s a good thing.

They want to treat them like terrorists.

As communities around the country have been targets of mass shootings in recent months, much of the focus on Capitol Hill has been on debate over gun control laws.

But now a new measure is taking a different approach at tackling the problem, as it is aimed at giving prosecutors and law enforcement more tools to hold the shooters and their support systems accountable.

The Mass Shooter Prosecution Act would allow mass shootings to be prosecuted as acts of terrorism.

“They are terrorists and they should be prosecuted as terrorists,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), the bill’s co-sponsor. “It also allows prosecutors to go after the material support networks. Networks that provide aid, perhaps its guidance, instructions maps. Whatever helps these attackers carry out these vicious assaults.”

Now, on the surface, this doesn’t sound like too bad of a thing. Prosecuting them as terrorists would open up all kinds of legal avenues.

What bothers me is the whole “material support network” thing.

See, most mass shooters don’t have broad material support networks. There’s no army of people helping them, no adoring legions funneling money to them so they can carry out their attacks. They get things like maps off the internet. They gain any instruction from places like YouTube.

In other words, any “support” they get is from those who aren’t actually trying to support this kind of thing.

That’s bad.

What’s worse is that this looks like a federal end-around on the Protection of Lawful Commerce of Arms Act.

While gun manufacturers don’t provide any support to any mass shooters, we’ve seen the anti-gun jihadists routinely act like the firearm industry is complicit in mass shootings. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a bill like this being turned against the industry in a heartbeat.

Especially when you look at the structure of the bill.

The language of the bill defines a mass shooting as involving a machinegun or certain semiautomatic weapon in a massacre in which three or more people were killed.

Now, the whole “three or more people killed” is a solid thing and I’m fine with that part of the definition. What bothers me is the idea that it’s only a mass shooting if the weapon is full-auto or “certain semiautomatic” weapons, which clearly is going to include the AR-15.

And the kicker? Despite semi-auto handguns being the preferred weapon of mass shooters, they’re not one of the “certain semiautomatic weapons” in question.

The law only applies to so-called “assault weapons” or shotguns with similar features.

As someone who has lost a dear friend in a mass shooting, I have to ask Rep. Moulton about that. You see, my friend was killed by a guy with a handgun. Five innocent people died because of that maniac and his wrongful use of a handgun.

Was her life worth less because of the weapon? Was it somehow not as tragic because he didn’t use an AR-15? Was it not really a mass shooting because of his choice of weapon?

Because that’s really what this law is suggesting. It’s suggesting that it’s not really a mass shooting without a so-called assault weapon.

Moulton claims there’s no reason for this bill not to have bipartisan support, but the truth of the matter is that I can see all kinds of problems with a bill like this. I can see innocent, unsuspecting people being rounded up and punished for things they had no idea about and I can see the stigmatization of the modern sporting rifle ramped up to a thousand all while companies are forced to fend off prosecution and persecution.

Yeah, there are reasons to oppose this bill. Tons of them.