The Lafayette Theater Shooter Was Another Domestic Terrorist

A Fox News host speculated the Lafayette Theater shooter was a member of ISIS at first. The 700 Club said that they were "searching for answers" and merely described the shooter as a "drifter." But Houser was no ordinary drifter. He's simply the latest in a string of lone wolf domestic terrorists like Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter, with a strong political agenda.

Shortly before I arrived in LaGrange, Georgia, John Russell "Rusty" Houser had a bar on Main Street in town, before he was busted for selling alcohol to minors. After he lost his liquor license, he displayed a swastika on a sign that said "Welcome to LaGrange," according to the LaGrange Daily News.

It was hardly an isolated incident. He actually had a history of political activism, attending public meetings, grilling local officials, and advocating all kinds of hate speech. He expressed admiration for shooters of the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church, the Kansas Jewish Community Center, and backed the Westboro Baptist Church.

He took his own life, so we don't know exactly why a political ideologue would shoot several women at a Hollywood theater featuring a sex comedy.

But we do know his wife sought a restraining order against him, fled from him and took his guns, after he threatened his daughter for getting married "too young" (at age 23, to a 26 year old). He refused to pay his female landlord rent for two years, and came back to ruin the house and attempted to mess with the gas line. He booby-trapped the house as well. There's even an arson charge from way back. But like many domestic terrorists, he was able to purchase a gun legally, from a pawn shop in Alabama.

A journalist familiar with Houser from his numerous political appearances said to me that he felt there were a lot of public officials shaking when they remembered his presence at public events, and how he could have easily carried out the shooting in Georgia.

Of course, not all domestic terrorists are like Houser. Some, like the shooter of the Chattanooga military personnel at recruiting stations, gravitate toward other hate groups, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, despite being born with plenty of life's advantages. But the Chattanooga, Charleston and Lafayette shooters often come from good backgrounds, fail to find a steady place in life, seek to channel their hatred towards some group to blame, and get plenty of online encouragement that they never get from the overwhelming majority of society.

Houser was from a political family, and had educational opportunities. But when business ventures failed, brushes with the law became frequent, and he found few in-person allies in his community (in West Georgia, most folks don't agree with his brand of politics), he began his radicalization, the same way Roof did in South Carolina, who both admired white supremacist regimes and illegal drugs. In addition to the so-called "lone wolf" domestic terrorists Houser admired, there's also the Sikh Temple shooter from Wisconsin.

If Roof and Houser changed their names to Middle East sounding names, we'd have no trouble labeling them domestic terrorists. If they were undocumented immigrants, we would have immediate Congressional hearings on changing our border policy. But the threat these lone wolf individuals pose is no different from the one we get from ISIS and al-Qaeda every day.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.