I am asked periodically by clients and Willis associates whether or not a specific act of violence would be considered an act of terrorism. Namely, they want to know whether or not an event would be covered under TRIPRA* or a Standalone Terrorism policy. My response is always the same, it depends on the intent of the action.
Aurora Theater Shooting
Events such as the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting in July, which happened for no apparent political reason, are not considered acts of terrorism by the standard insurance definition or the government. They are simply acts of violence.
The key elements in defining terrorism, whether it be from the FBI, TRIPRA, or standalone terrorism market, is that the event must involve an intent to influence the government or population, and it must involve an element of political or ideological reasoning.
Milwaukee Sikh Temple Shooting
It is still too early to tell what Wade Michael Page’s intent was when he killed 7 people, including himself, in a Sikh Temple in Milwaukee August 5. Evidence including tattoos on the suspected shooter’s body suggest that he was potentially a white supremacist. In fact, news reports have stated that Page had been monitored by anti-hate watchdog groups for over a decade.
Should further evidence arise and confirm that Page committed the shooting to intimidate Muslims (it is believed Page thought Sikhs were Muslim), then his actions could be interpreted as an act of terrorism based upon the FBI’s definition of terrorism.