By Jeff Gruenewald, Joshua D. Freilich, Steven Chermak and William Parkin
Some are calling the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub an act of terrorism. Others are calling it a hate crime against the LGBT community. President Obama declared it an “act of terror and an act of hate.”
It’s an important question. How extremist crimes are labeled by officials directly affects how offenders are charged, their likelihood of being convicted and the severity of their sentences.
Labels are also symbolic acknowledgments by the government of the harms inflicted on the nation by terrorists, and on specific social groups by hate crimes. These labels can shape how the public thinks about extremist crimes.
We have been researching terrorism, extremism and hate for more than 15 years and currently direct the United States Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) study. (more…)