The Plymouth shooting took place on August 12. Since then, news coverage has died down. Despite promises made to check potential gun holders‘ social media accounts for harmful posts or comments, the law continues to be vague.

Several questions arise at this point. Firstly, do the police know what to look for? Secondly, when does a post become too threatening to warrant a gun license? And finally, but more crucially, should so-called ‘incels’ (involuntary celibates) be banned from owning guns, just like other terrorist and far-right extremist groups? 


The Incel Movement

Incels are an online group of individuals, predominantly men, who lack sexual partners despite actively seeking them out.

For some within the incel community, the forums are merely a sphere within which to express their hardships and feelings of disappointment or loneliness. However, for an increasing number of men, they are becoming spaces for violent thoughts and violent actions. 

Misogyny, racism and hatred seep out of the virtual chambers. Incels largely see women as the cause of their woes and the ones to blame for their absent sex lives. Women are, in essence, the Enemy; manipulative beings who thrive on embarrassing and exploiting men. But women are not the only foe of the incel community. Men too are to be despised; specifically, those that do manage to get girlfriends — a.k.a Chads or ‘alpha males’.

Since 2014, it is estimated that eight mass murders, killing 61 people, have been committed by incels. In 2020, an attack in Toronto, Canada, became the first incel-related crime to be classed as an act of terrorism.

So, with this in mind, isn’t it time to add incels to the ‘Terrorists’ list?

Terrorists or Traumatised?

Undeniably, for some incels, the groups are merely a platform to talk about their hardships, make jokes and bemoan their lack of love. However, increasingly, the movement has become something more worrying owing to the mounting number of shootings. 

The majority of incel-related attacks have occurred in the last 20 years. They are also primarily located in places where guns are readily available, like the USA. Evidently, incels typically use guns to carry out violence, which is a further reason to place a ban on their ownership — at least, for certain members of the community.

In 2009, George Sodini opened fire in an LA fitness club, murdering three women and injuring nine others. This was one of the first attacks known in the community that specifically targeted women. Since then, incels have been known to glorify this behaviour — indulgently calling it ‘going Sodini’. 

One of the most horrific mass shootings in the name of incels was committed in Isla Vista, California, in May 2014 by Elliot Rodgers. He murdered 6 people and injured 14 before turning the gun on himself. Rodgers was a self-described incel, leaving a 137-page manifesto behind explaining how he came to be an incel and the motivation for attacking innocent people (mostly avenging himself against the women that supposedly ignored him). Very quickly, Rodgers ascended to the status of martyr. Many of the gun shootings that have since taken place have referenced him as a hero of the incel cause.

But do the gun shootings necessarily make incels terrorists?

Broadly speaking, terrorists are usually people who use violence in order to coerce and intimidate governments or civilians, as well as endanger life. With this in mind, the behaviour of (some) incels certainly justifies calling them terrorists. After all, just like terrorist networks, they use violence and murder to coerce others (in this case women) into accepting their ideology.

Calling a Spade a Spade

If incels’ behaviour matches that of terrorist organisations, why not just call them that?

This will do several things. Firstly, and most importantly, it will ensure that those who display the more violent incel characteristics will not be allowed to own a gun. They may also have their gun license revoked if at any time a member’s behaviour changes. Secondly, it could help deradicalise those incel members that have become extreme by shutting down forums that go beyond friendly male banter. 

Unless we act now, by imposing stricter gun licenses and banning some incels from owning guns, we will continue to see violence in the name of involuntary celibacy. We will also continue seeing abuse targeted at people in happy relationships and the deaths of women who have supposedly rejected men. There will be more   Elliot Rodgers, murdering and becoming martyrs, and more Plymouth shootings permanently ruining lives and petrifying communities unless the law changes.

Terrorism has evolved. It’s time our lawmakers face this.