During a testimony by Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked why events like the Boston tragedy are labeled acts of terror but mass shootings, like the one in Newtown, are not considered terrorism.
"The irony is that we are so quick to call Boston terror. Why aren't we calling the man with the high-capacity assault weapon and the high-capacity magazine - why aren't we calling him a terrorist?" she asked.
"Based on the evidence at this point is there any difference between Sandy Hook and Boston other than the choice of weapon?"
Napolitano gathered her thoughts before she answered her question.
"In terms of intent for death and destruction and injury? No. Methodology, yes," Napolitano said. She noted that investigators still do not know what the motive was for the Boston bombings.
"I think that it is impossible for me to sit at the table today and say they are identical, except in effect and impact," she said.
McCaskill said she knows that the legal definition of terrorism requires it to have a political motive.
But she said, beyond Adam Lanza's mental illness, there is no knowledge of a motive for the massacre.
"I find it troubling that one is characterized in a way that causes so much more fear and disruption than the other," she said.
She posed her questions on the day that the Senate was expected to vote on several gun-control provisions. She wanted Napolitano to reevaluate when and how the government defines a criminal act as terrorism.