On December 23rd, 2009, Warren "Gator" Taylor, walked into a post office in Wytheville, Virginia, a town in the rural Appalachian region of Virginia, fired some shots with a pistol, and announced that he was taking hostages of two customers and one postal employee. He also claimed to have some explosives. There followed a nine hour stand-off between Warren Taylor and several police agencies, both local and federal. Taylor, who was in bad health and chose the Wytheville Post Office seemingly on a whim, gave up to authorities, and is currently undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

Taylor had a criminal record prior to this incident, and seemed to be predisposed to violent and irrational behavior, although his most major crime, the intentionally non-fatal shooting of his ex-wife, seemed to suggest that he didn't really have the desire to do anything quite as violent as indiscriminately kill three strangers. His stated motive for the crime was anger at the federal government, Barack Obama and gun control laws. (There are, of course, many arguments for and against gun control, but using a pistol to take three hostages at a post office is one of the least persuasive arguments against gun control I can imagine.) It seems that Taylor acted alone, and despite his stated motivations, this was more the act of a frustrated man who was not very intelligent, and not very mentally stable.

Even though the attacks were not any coordinated or well-thought out attack on a strategic target, it is interesting that none of the news reports of the attack have mentioned the word "terrorism". The facts that Taylor is mentally unstable and not-too-bright do not change the fact that what he was using violence and the threat of violence against people and property in an attempt to influence government policy, or bring attention to his opinions: something that is, by definition, terroristic. In the current decade, "terrorism" seems to be firmly fixed in people's minds as foreign terrorism, and I have no doubt that if Taylor was not a national, or had different political or social beliefs, that this would quickly be referred to as terrorism. However, the news stories seem to focus on Taylor's actions as purely personal in nature. This is probably due to how inept he was, but I fear that Taylor's anger is present in others, and that there may be another incident like this with someone with similar political beliefs, but perhaps a greater attention span and less of an aversion to violence than Warren Taylor had.

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