Press Release

Right-Wing Extremism Linked to Every 2018 Extremist Murder in the U.S., ADL Finds

Related Content

Right-wing extremists killed more people last year than in any year since 1995

New York, NY, January 23, 2019 … Right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 extremist-related murders in the United States in 2018, making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995, according to new data from the ADL.

In its annual report on extremist-related killings in the U.S., the ADL’s Center on Extremism reported that at least 50 people were killed by extremists in 2018, including the 11 individuals killed in the fatal anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The tally represents a 35 percent increase from the 37 extremist-related murders in 2017, making 2018 the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.

Last year saw the highest percentage of right-wing extremist-related killings since 2012, the last year when all documented killings were by right-wing extremists.

Right-wing extremists killed more people in 2018 than in any year since 1995, the year of Timothy McVeigh’s bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building.

“The white supremacist attack in Pittsburgh should serve as a wake-up call to everyone about the deadly consequences of hateful rhetoric,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “It’s time for our nation’s leaders to appropriately recognize the severity of the threat and to devote the necessary resources to address the scourge of right-wing extremism.”

Last year’s murders at the hands of right-wing extremists reflect an ongoing trend. ADL’s Center on Extremism, which has aggregated data going back to 1970, shows that over the last decade, a total of 73.3 percent of all extremist-related fatalities can be linked to domestic right-wing extremists, while 23.4 percent can be attributed to Islamic extremists. The remaining 3.2 percent were carried out by extremists who did not fall into either category.

Murder and Extremism in 2018: Summary of Major Findings

  • Every perpetrator had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement, although one had recently begun supporting Islamist extremism.
  • Firearms remain the weapon of choice for extremists who kill. Guns were responsible for 42 of the 50 deaths in 2018, followed by blades or edged weapons.
  • Five shooting sprees resulted in 38 deaths and left 33 people injured.
  • Among the five extremist-related shooting sprees in 2018: Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA: 11 dead; Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL: 17 dead; Waffle House, Nashville, TN: four dead.
  • The perpetrator of the deadly shooting spree at a yoga studio in Tallahassee was connected to the misogynistic incel/manosphere movement. In the wake of this attack and a similarly-motivated spate of murders in Toronto, ADL’s Center on Extremism now tracks such incidents as extremist-related killings.

Policy Recommendations

1. Speak Out Against Hate and Extremism – Particularly from the Far Right

Public officials and law enforcement authorities must speak out against all manifestations of hate and extremism. For too long, policymakers have focused disproportionate attention on the threat of Islamist extremism – to the detriment of readiness to address many other security issues. 

2. Enact Laws to Fight Domestic Terrorism

Recognizing that far-right extremism is a major threat of this new era, the United States Congress should enact laws to focus specifically on domestic terrorism, including close examination of the utility of enacting a statute that explicitly recognizes and punishes domestic terrorism as a crime.

3. Expand Dialogue Between Civil Society and Tech Sector

In the last several years, civil society and the technology sector have partnered on a range of projects to adapt for the digital era.  For example, ADL has been proud to be part of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and to work with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter as members of our Problem-Solving Lab. ADL has worked with tech companies in myriad ways to help them improve their approach to dealing with hate and extremism on their platforms. However, those efforts are still nascent.

4. Improve federal, state, and local responses to hate crimes

Every state should enact comprehensive, inclusive hate crime laws. Effective responses to hate violence by public officials and law enforcement authorities can play an essential role in deterring and preventing these crimes.

5. Reframe Prevention Strategies to Promote Community Resilience to Counter Far-Right Extremism

Congress and state legislatures should authorize and appropriate grants for research and services to better understand the drivers of extremist hate and fund evidence-based programming to counter it.

6. Promote Anti-Bias and Civics Education Programs in elementary and secondary schools

Recognizing the limits of legal responses to hate violence, Congress and the Department of Education should increase federal funding for inclusive school climate, anti-bias education and hate crime prevention.