Using Mobility and Anomie Criminological Theories to Explain Oklahoma City Bombing

In the modern world where crime and criminal activities have increased, focus has been directed towards why these crimes occur. In his early conception, Empedocles, a Greek philosopher, asserted that in the universe, there is crime and cooperation, two opposites that co-exist in relation to one another. According to (Walsh, 2015) there is an interdependence between conflict and cooperation, where love begets love and love begets conflict. The author also points that a similar reasoning has been applied by the Chinese in the concept of unity opposites in yin and yang as well as the Hegel’s dialectic. However, these reasoning fail to clearly define the root causes of crime and criminological tendencies.

Read also Biological, Sociological and Psychological Criminological Theories

            Crime or criminal violence occurs with a reason and is often intended to achieve certain goals (Sobchik, 2017). Since crime or criminal tendencies occur with purposes, many criminological conceptions have been advanced to explain impulsiveness towards crime. According to (Williams & McShane, 2010) there are born criminals, and these occurs among people who lack a connection to certain anomalies such as epileptic and atavism. The authors also point to crimes that occur among the criminaloids, who have connection to anomalies such as epilepsy and left-handedness. The criminaloids have higher proportion of these anomalies compared to normal born criminals. For example, 10% of criminaloids who are epileptic are pickpockets (pp. 46). Also, crime can occur due to insanity, passion and occasion.  

Read also Using Delinquency Theories To Explain Delinquent Behavior Among Juveniles

            Although the organic factors to crime discussed above contribute to only 35-40% of impulsiveness towards crime, the lesser determinants of crime can be studied through the major causes. According to (Williams & McShane, 2010) most causes of crime have been attributed to resource acquisition for survival purposes, others have pointed to individuals and their personality, while other have pointed to the desire to attain freedom owing to political oppression. However, all these and other reasons are plausible depending on the context in which the criminal event occurs. Indeed, (Holmes & Holmes, 2002) points that most criminals commit criminal activities due to a combination of factors. In order to develop a better understanding of causes of crime and incorporate all perspectives, various criminological theories have been developed.

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            Criminal violence is so involving and has been pointed to involve a relationship between the body, pain, emotions, discipline and control (Hale, Hayward, Wahidin & Wincup, 2013). In addition, criminal acts produce devastating effects, loss of life and property. Suicide bombings and targeted attacks have claimed lives of many innocent people. For example, the Oklahoma bomb attack led to death of close to 190 people and others were left with permanent injuries. There were also massive lose in property worth millions of dollars and a destruction of critical infrastructure. Moreover, frequent bomb attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a disfranchised society with virtually no peace. All these attacks involve some elements of planning, pain, discipline and control from the perpetrators.

One is left wondering if it take planning, pain, sacrifice, control, discipline and emotions to carry out a criminal attack, then what motivates the perpetrators of criminal violence? These are questions that criminological theories that have been developed try to understand and give plausible answers or directions for future developments of good understanding. The social scientists, practitioners in criminal justice and crime scientists have developed several theories to explain criminal acts and criminal tendencies among individuals.

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            A theory has been defined in (Akers, 2013) as a set of connected prepositions which try to provide explanations as to which events occur, how they occur and their relationships. Although the author considers criminological theories as being abstract, he points that they provide more plausible reasons than abstract speculations (p. 2). Furthermore, the author points that criminological theories are social science endeavors that provide explanation for human behavior and the society. As such criminal theories try to explain why legal and social norms are violated. Specifically, they try to answer the question: “why do some individuals come together to commit deviant and criminal acts?” As a result, in order to explain the different causes of criminal acts, a number of criminological theories have been developed.

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            There are a number of criminological theories that can be applied to explain various criminal acts. These theories include the mobility theory, the anomie/strain theory, feminist theories, radical and critical theories, Marxist theories, labeling theory, social learning theory, social control theory, rational choice theory, social disorganization theory and conflict theories among others. All these theories provide different explanations for different causes of criminal acts in the society.

            The presence of the various types of theories has allowed criminal justice personnel to provide plausible reasons why specific crimes occurred. These theories are essential for the development of appropriate policies to curb crimes. There are many types of criminal violence such as suicidal bombings, shooting of innocent people in social gatherings and general increase in robbery with violence. All these occurrences have varying reasons why they occur and this can be explained through appropriate theory. For example, the general strain theory has been applied to explain the tendency for violent extremist attitudes among children affected by ethnic violence (Nivette, Eisner & Ribeaud, 2017).

Read also The Greatest Motivator of Terrorism

The Criminal Event – Oklahoma City Bombing

            The effects of terrorist attacks are nothing but ugly scenes full of property destruction, loss of life and general public fear. Terrorists who achieve such ugly scenes consider their acts to have been successful and meeting their goals. The goals of terrorists are quite clear and simple, cause deaths to send the message, inflict fear and destroy property. Unlike in the past, modern terrorist attacks occur in different forms and in sophisticated ways. The new developments in technology have altered the way terrorist organize and implement their criminal acts. The Oklahoma City bombing is an example of modern terrorist acts that involved the use of technology to cause unexpected and devastating bomb attack which destroyed property and caused loss of life of many people.

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            The Oklahoma City events of morning April 19, 1995 are what the locals and Americans would not wish to remember. Timothy J. McVeigh shocked the whole world when his 7,000 pound truck bomb clawed the multistoried horseshoe building into Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (Michel & Herbeck, 2015).  According to (, n.d) McVeigh was an ex-army soldier, who with the help of homemade bomb and a rented Ryder truck bombed the federal building.

Read also Oklahoma City bombing, April 1995

            The bomb that McVeigh has transported in the hired truck was made from a mixture of agricultural fertilizer, diesel fuel and other chemicals. At around 9.00 am, McVeigh parked his rented Ryder truck outside Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and ignited one time fuse and another leading a huge explosion that blew the building causing fatalities and massive destruction of the building (, n.d). The FBI reported that the exact time in which the massive explosion occurred was exactly 9.02 am. And within some few minutes, the whole area resembled a war area. Almost a third of the entire building had been rendered into rabbles by the massive explosion. Most of the floors of the building had been destroyed and looked like pancakes. The effects of the explosion spread affected cars that were in the parking lot and the nearby buildings. It is reported that many of the vehicles were incinerated and over 300 nearby buildings destroyed or damaged.

            In addition to the property that was destroyed by the massive explosion, there was loss of human life. Considered as the most tragic acts of homegrown terrorism, the explosion claimed lives of over 168 people, including 19 children and hundreds of other people who were inflicted with various injuries (, n.d). The children who died were under the Care Center that was situated in the building.

            The Oklahoma attack occurred barely two years after the bombing that occurred at the World Trade Center, New York. The timing of the attack led to many speculations and many media outlets and general public believed the occurrence was linked with the work of the terrorists from Middle East. However, the FBI would continue to do their research and beneath the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building rubbles lay the secret to their clues. The FBI finally found the axle to the vehicle that McVeigh used and with the use of registration number of the vehicle, the investigate agency would later collaborate with the renting company to locate McVeigh. Luckily the Oklahoma State patrol had pulled him about 80 miles off the city on noticing his car had no license plate.

            Soon after his arrest, evidence begun to pile on McVeigh’s suspected involvement in Oklahoma City bombing attacks. According to (, n.d) traces of the chemicals that were used in making of the homemade bombs that were used in the attack were discovered in McVeigh’s clothes. The FBI agents also learned about extremist ideologies that led to McVeigh terrorist actions. Moreover, the agents learned about his anger at the Waco’s events that occurred two years prior to his bombing actions (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). One of his friends, Terry Nichols, was found to have helped him in design and building of the bomb, while Michael Fortier was found to have been aware of the ongoing developments about the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing.

            McVeigh was raised in Western of New York and is believed to have had passion and penchant for guns since his teen days. Having grown amid the increased US-Soviet Union tensions, McVeigh had been practicing the survival skills which he thought would be necessary in case the U.S and Soviet Union tensions would escalate into war (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). He graduated from high school in 1986 and joined U.S in 1988, where records showed that he a meticulous and disciplined soldier. It was during his days in the army that McVeigh met Nichols who had joined the army much earlier than him and the two developed interests in the U.S – Soviet Union politics and tow developed survivalist tactics.

            That he had a distinguished career in U.S army could be seen from McVeigh’s achievements while serving the army. In 1991, he participated in the Persian Gulf War and was decorated with numerous military medals for his service to the country (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). However, his application to join U.S army’s Special Forces unit failed and he elected to accept the army’s early discharge request, where he retired from the forces in fall of 1991.

            When McVeigh was discharged from his military duties, the American Army was undergoing a downsizing program following the end of the cold war. The incoming president was a fierce critic and gun possession and campaigned during his presidential bid for a tighter gun control in the country. It was after the end of Cold War and successful presidential bid by Bill Clinton that McVeigh is said to have shifted his ideologies from the Soviet Union into the Federal government (Michel & Herbeck, 2015), specifically suspicion about the incumbency.

            The FBI believes Nichols, McVeigh and Fortier became radicalized upon the Ruby Ridge events, which occurred in August 1992 where there was a shoot-out between survivalist Randy Weaver and Federal Agents (, n.d). Moreover, their ideologies were further reinforced by the April 1993 Waco siege in Texas, where a death toll of about 75 members of religious sect of Branch Davidian, was recorded.

            That McVeigh’s attack occurred on Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was not coincidental as the building was a house to many federal agencies such as the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive and the Bureau of Alcohol. Evidence has it that these agencies had shown involvement in the Waco, Texas siege and had been involved in the raids that caused deaths among the members of the Branch Davidian. This might have been a retaliatory attack on perceived “wrong actions” of the federal agents.

            Moreover, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building attacks occurred on the day of the two year anniversary of the Waco siege. As April, 19, 1995 marked the second anniversary of the Waco siege, on that day McVeigh parked his rented Ryder truck loaded with explosives. He would later lit the two fuses that set a blaze the fertilizer-diesel-fuel bomb leading to a massive explosion that destroyed a large part of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing over 170 people and leaving scores injured. The explosion also caused massive destruction to nearby houses while setting ablaze vehicles that were parked within the federal building.

            After his arrest McVeigh was convicted on June, 2 1997 on 11 counts and was sentenced to death on August the same month. On the other hand, Fortier was sentenced the following year to serve 12 years in prison owing to his failure to warn the federal authorities on the impending Oklahoma attacks despite being privy to the attacks. Nichols was found guilty on December 1997 and was handed a life-time prison sentence. He was accused of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter and the killing of federal agent personnel. He was also charged again in 2004, where the state criminal justice department found him guilty of 161 first degree murder incidences for which he received 161 consecutive prison years.


The Anomie Theory

            Anomie generally refers to the disruption of the societal norms. Developed by Merton, the anomie theory is based on the concept of a disorganized society where a lot of emphasis is focused on the cultural success goals but the means through which people within that society reach these goals is not distributed equally. According to (Williams & McShane, 2015) it is this disjoint between means and goals or the lack of means by which the goals can be achieved is what contributes to anomie. Merton postulated in his theory that the societal state of anomie would lead to deviance especially among the disadvantaged groups who had little or no means to reach the goals.

            The anomie theory has been considered as a major form of structural theory of deviance. According to (Clinard & Meier, 2016) the theory identifies the source of deviance from the imbalance that exists from the societal norms and values. This is true in a society which lays emphasis on the desirable culturally determined goals rather than socially approved means that these goals could be achieved. Such mismatch forces groups in such a society to adapt accordingly, where these adaptations may lead to deviance. The strain imbalance can exert huge pressure on some individuals like those in lower class, leading to increased adaptations.

            Moreover, the anomie theory has been put in perceptual terms and anomie score. Wilkins (2013) points that in terms of perception, an individual with high anomie score exhibits a number of perceptions regarding other members of the society and societal institutions. According to the author, a person with high anomie score often perceives the average person in the society as getting worse (pp. 42). Such a person will perceive future as bleak and the public people as unintended source of problems. High anomie score is also associated with lack trust on other people and such people will rather live much for the day than tomorrow or future.

            The anomie theory has undergone testing and new directions in contemporary research. According to (Antonaccio, Smith & Gostjev, 2015) following the early original writings of Merton about the individual adaptations, early empirical tests that examined the discrepancy in goal-means found weak support for his findings. Other contemporary studies have also tested Merton’s theory, for example empirical tests have been done on monetary dissatisfaction and relative deprivation.

  Smith & Gostjev (2015) have pointed that only four empirical studies made an attempt to test the anomie theory’s propositions of conditionality of association with crime. The authors point that all these tests on Merton’s anomie strain theory have yielded mixed results. Although past studies have provided tests on external controls and their effects on crime, no tests on the theory have been done on the effects on external constraints on crime. The present state of the theory remains with empirical tests of the theory regarding effect of external constraints on crimes.

Mobility Theory

Mass incarcerations has often characterized American state punishments where those whose behavior is considered deviant and against the law are removed from their communities and placed in prisons often with long prison sentences. Whereas such moves have been widely adopted with the hope of reducing crime rates, it has resulted in increased mobility. According to (Lilly, Cullen & Ball, 2007) such incarcerations have been conceptualized as a form of coerce mobility. The perspective is based on the theoretical understanding that incarceration could have a form of a feedback loop, which causes disorganization. Lilly, Cullen & Ball (2007) asserts that this theory is an extension of the social disorganization theory, which calls for attention to the important source that the neighborhood achieves social control and some form of organization.

The offenders have been likened to liabilities and assets to the community. They are liabilities owing to their deviant behaviors and are assets in form of support to their families and social networks. Massive incarceration works to deplete the community of these vital assets and weakens the social institutions, especially in underclass neighborhoods (Lilly, Cullen & Ball, 2007). According to the authors, depending on the nature of neighborhood and its magnitude this produces differential impacts.

Although the mobility theory has been successful in explanation of criminal tendencies, the empirical research on the theory remains scarce and the ones that have been done have produced mixed results. According to (Turner & Peters, 2017) the current studies have focused more on linear carceral mobility. However, present studies on the mobility theory have developed more into focusing on voluminous or vertical dimensions of carceral mobility.

Prediction and Prevention

The Application of Anomie Theory on Oklahoma City Bombing

            In the United States, the two core features of the social organization are the institutional structure and culture. These two core features of the country have been implicated genesis of crimes in the country (Cote, 2002). The ethos enshrined in the American Dream has been accused as the reasons behind criminal motivations and weakening of the anomie. On the other hand, the dominance of institutional power balance is a source of weak social control (p.110). The interdependence of these two features stimulates criminal activities.

            The case of McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing can be attributed to a lack of means of achieving the American Dream of monetary success. In the early account of the events of the bombing, it was stated that McVeigh had joined U.S Army and was discharged of his duties owing to his failure to meet the requirements of the Special Forces unit. This created some form of anomie, where his means to meet his life goals were curtailed without proper means of getting meaningful income. This was further exacerbated by the Waco siege, which might have made McVeigh feel that the institutions were the greatest stumbling block. The use of the bombs was seen by him and the most effective method of creating institutional compliance.

The Application of the Mobility Theory on Oklahoma City Bombing

            The mobility theory posits that it is the disorganization which is caused by the massive incarceration that is responsible for increased crime rates. The theory reiterates that the prospects of the offender to commit a crime are connected with his or her ability to move from one location to another and that the greater the mobility, the higher the chances of criminal activity. According to (Michel & Herbeck, 2015) McVeigh’s mother and father separated for the third and final time in 18984. This created a form of disorganization and lack of social control. His father’s breaking up with her mum might have contributed to his mobility to commit the crime. In addition, the presence of both parents exerts huge influence on a child’s behavior. Given that his parents separated, it created a vacuum through which McVeigh would later associate with negative influence of Nichols and Fortier. All these combined to create an interconnected web of events that would culminate into his ideologies.

Recommended Criminal Justice Responses

            Although the focus of the United States has been the threat of global terrorism, there has been an increase in incidences of domestic terrorism (Bjelopera, 2011). The Oklahoma and the World Trade Center bombings are just few examples of terrorist attacks that were perpetrated within the country’s borders. This implies that that there is need for an inclusive set of laws and policies that govern the global and domestic threats of terrorist attacks. Indeed the United State federal government has since expanded the provisions of the U.S Patriot Act to include aspects of domestic terrorism.

Read also Affiliations Between Domestic Terrorists And Transnational Terrorists

            In response to increasing threats of domestic terrorism the U.S Patriot Act has witnessed over 15 amended sections in order to provide increased powers to the domestic law enforcement agencies and international intelligence agencies. According to (Green & Karolides, 2014) the authority of the FBI has been extended to include the surveillance of people living within the United States. In addition, terrorism laws have been expanded to include domestic terrorism.

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            The occurrences of the Oklahoma City bombing are acts of domestic terrorism. The adoption of appropriate policies, programs and laws can provide an effective counter measure to prevent such future occurrences. It is recommended that the criminal justice department should increase surveillance among those individuals who live in the country and have been exposed to external terrorist activities.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) must be implemented fully in order to assist the criminal justice department to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. The amendments of the Patriot Act allowed FISA to spy on Americans or foreigners in America, including their communications and those they communicate with (Green & Karolides, 2014). Had this been the case before, then the Oklahoma City bombing might have been prevented.

Read also Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Analysis

            The paper also recommends a proactive action, which is intended to improve the economic and social wellbeing of the citizens. According to (Sandler, 2014) one of the strategies for preventing terrorism is to improve economic conditions of people, which in turn reduces grievances. In the Oklahoma bombing, McVeigh had been discharged from the United States army without a proper avenue to help him meet his economic goals. His discharge should have been done in a way that ensures he could still live the American Dream of attaining success in life. However, he was left with no means to achieve his American Dream, a fact that may have led to his retaliatory attacks on people he perceived to be responsible for his situation.

Read also Provisions Of Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act And The Patriot Act

            The other recommendation is that there is need for the federal government to increase social justice and eliminate interregional inequality. Domestic terrorism is associated with many factors and lack of social and economic equality has been cited as some of the factors. According to (Ezcurra & Palacios, 2016) poverty can lead to inactivity, however, the authors points to the fact that when people perceive that there is a discrepancy between what they deserve and what they receive then they are likely to develop discontent. In as much as there may be other reasons that prompted McVeigh to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, it could be right to conclude the effect of economic inequality in his case. The rationale behind this conclusion is based on the target of his attack, who were his former direct or indirect employers whom he perceived to have had a direct responsibility for his situation. It follows that ensuring economic and social equality among citizens can be an effective strategy for combating domestic terrorism.


            The modern terrorist activities have shifted from external threat attacks to include a dangerous form of domestic terrorism. Many studies from different scholars have tried to develop and understanding as to why terrorists carry out their activities particularly given that they cause casualties and loss of property. As a result, many theories have been put forth to try to explain the nature of crimes and their causes. The paper discussed Oklahoma bombing and the application of mobility and anomie criminological theories.

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            The anomie theory points to the societal lack of means of achieving individual goals. The theory is based on a disorganized society where the focus is on cultural means of meeting goals yet such means are unavailable. In the McVeigh case, the perpetrator of the attacks had been discharged from the United States Army without proper means of achieving his economic goals. The loss of job and lack of societal means through which he could meet his goals created an anomie which prompted his deviant behavior.       

Read also Domestic Pre-9/11 And Post-9/11 Terrorist Events Research Paper     

The Oklahoma bombing can also be explained through the mobility theory, which posits that the ability of an offender to move from one physical location influences the ability to commit crimes. An offender who has the greatest mobility harbors more ability to commit more crimes. The fact that McVeigh’s parents had separated and he had no history of a family of his own, increased his mobility. Moreover, the presence of a disorganized family reduced the family bonding and value transmission from parents, which influenced his deviant and criminal behavior. That he was able to move many miles to commit his crimes shows the extent to which mobility can impact on ability to commit crimes.

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