What's the difference between mass murder and terrorism?

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Author's Note: What's the difference between mass murder and terrorism?

The most useful thing to remember when trying to distinguish between terrorism and mass murder is that there is no definitive answer. Not in the United States legal system, not in many other nation's laws and not in any international sense. Obviously, there's overlap in the definition of terrorism and mass murder. But how we punish people is affected by the charge brought against them, so it's an overlap that might become increasingly important to define.

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  • BBC News. "Norway attacks: Breivik charged with terror attacks." March 7, 2012. (May 9, 2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17286154
  • Brostoff, Marissa. "Mass murder vs. terrorism." Salon. April 28, 2013. (May 8, 2013(http://www.salon.com/2013/04/28/is_dzohkhar_tsarnaev_a_suspected_murderer_or_terrorist_partner/
  • Criscione, Valeria. "A year after Breivik's massacre, Norway tightens antiterror laws." The Christian Science Monitor. July 22, 2012. (May 9, 2013) http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0722/A-year-after-Breivik-s-massacre-Norway-tightens-antiterror-laws
  • Follman, Mark. "Mass Shootings: Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental-Health Policy." Mother Jones. Nov. 9, 2012. (May 21, 2013) http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/jared-loughner-mass-shootings-mental-illness
  • Gaynor, Tim. "Giffords faces Ariz. Shooter in court, Loughner receives life sentence." The Christian Science Monitor. Nov. 8, 2012. (May 8, 2013) http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2012/1108/Giffords-faces-Ariz.-shooter-in-court-Loughner-receives-life-sentence-video
  • Lapidos, Juliet. "Is Nidal Malik Hasan a 'terrorist'?" Slate. Nov. 11, 2009. (May 8, 2013) http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/11/is_nidal_malik_hasan_a_terrorist.html
  • Longmire, Sylvia. "When is mass murder considered domestic terrorism?" Homeland Security Today. Aug. 21, 2012. (May 8, 2013) http://www.hstoday.us/briefings/correspondents-watch/single-article/when-is-mass-murder-considered-domestic-terrorism/e17b4534480b252474617ecef34be643.html
  • Morton, Robert J. "Serial Murder." Federal Bureau of Investigation. (May 8, 2013) https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder
  • United States Department of Justice. "Terrorism 2002-2005." Federal Bureau of Investigation. (May 8, 2013) http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terrorism-2002-2005

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