George Diepenbrock
KU News Service

Alexandria shooting likely will be classified as domestic terrorism, extremism researcher says

Thu, 06/15/2017

LAWRENCE — Demonizing political opponents on the other side can have the tragic effect of enflaming extremists and possibly increase the likelihood of political violence, according to a University of Kansas researcher of extremist groups.

Federal law enforcement officials and national media reports Wednesday identified an Illinois man as the shooter who opened fire in the morning on Republican members of Congress, staff Capitol Police officers and others practicing for a charity Congressional baseball game. Majority House Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, was among those injured. The alleged shooter has died, and national media reports have focused on his past anti-Trump messages on social media.

Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, is available to discuss issues surrounding political extremism and political violence. Haider-Markel's has co-authored several studies on a range of topics surrounding political extremism, U.S. politics, public policy and responses to gun violence.

"Given what we know so far, it seems clear to me that this criminal act of violence can likely be classified as domestic terrorism in the same manner that I would classify the 2011 Giffords shooting in Arizona, the 2015 South Carolina church shooting, and the February Overland Park shooting of two Indian nationals as domestic terrorism," Haider-Markel said. "Each of these cases involved so-called lone-wolf attackers who have been inspired to act on extremist beliefs about their political opponents."

He said, unfortunately, the recent violent events should qualify as a lesson in giving legitimacy to voices that refer to the other side in a political debate as evil.

"Those on both the left and right should refrain from demonizing their opponents," Haider-Markel said, "lest they create more fodder for those with extremist beliefs to use as justification for criminal acts."

To arrange an interview with Don Haider-Markel, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or

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