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Are the Oregon militia members 'terrorists'? Depends on your definition

Are the Oregon militia members 'terrorists'? Depends on your definition
Jon Ritzheimer, 32, shows a family picture on his phone and a copy of the Constitution to the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters inOregon on Jan. 4. (Rob Kerr / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: Jesse Walker says it is "absurd" to refer to the militia members occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon as "terrorists" because they are not threatening any civilians with violence. ("Are the activists occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon 'terrorists'?," Opinion, Jan. 6)

The legal definition of "terrorism" found in federal law (United States Code Title 18, Section 2331) includes any activity involving acts dangerous to human life in violation of federal law that appear intended to influence government policy by intimidation or coercion. Nothing in that definition requires the human life involved to be that of a civilian.

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One may argue whether the folks in Malheur have yet done anything dangerous to human life, but they obviously fit the rest of the definition. It is certainly not "absurd" to claim that they are terrorists as defined in the law.

John Hamilton Scott, Sherman Oaks

The writer is an attorney.

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To the editor: The author asks whether terrorism includes "breaking into an unoccupied building." It would be more reflective of this situation for Walker to ask if terrorism includes "armed men threatening to shoot police if they seek to reclaim illegally occupied federal land."

Regardless, I wonder if, using Walker's words, "the government changed its strategy" for ending such standoffs by all groups.

The government has a better record with militias like those in Oregon and Nevada and with the Freemen in 1996, both groups of rural whites. It remains to be seen whether a similar act by a non-white leftist group would be characterized as simply "breaking into an unoccupied building" and whether the government would respond with the same restraint.

Joseph Bartlett, Los Angeles

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To the editor: A group of heavily armed men storm into a federal building, vow not to leave and declare they are willing to kill or be killed.

Terrorists? As the Bard said, "What's in a name?"

These people are violent and belong behind bars. The fact that this band of deeply disturbed individuals has access to guns is the truly scary part of this story. Their actions prove that they are unfit to possess firearms.

They are the poster children for stricter gun control.

Kristen Merrell, Irvine 

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