WASHINGTON — Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements after the U.S. House of Representatives passed Representative Brad Schneider’s (IL-10) Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350) tonight, with a 222 to 203 bipartisan majority. Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action support the bill as a part of its Disarm Hate platform to address the urgent and deadly threats that white supremacy and far right extremism pose to the nation, especially when combined with easy access to guns.
“On Saturday, Buffalo became the latest city to be forever scarred by an act of racist, hate-filled violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We applaud the House for taking action to support law enforcement efforts across the federal government to go after this threat with the urgency it demands.”
“Domestic terrorism is a real and urgent threat and Saturday’s white supremacist shooting is yet another reminder of the price of inaction,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We appreciate the House passing this important legislation, and we will continue working with every level of the government to take action to stop the free flow of firearms to those driven by hate that makes the threat of domestic terrorism even deadlier.”
The bill would create federal offices of Domestic Terrorism within the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to formally establish a coordinated response to the threat of white supremacists and domestic violent extremist groups and require the three federal agencies to provide training and resources to assist state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in combating domestic terrorism.
The new offices of Domestic Terrorism would also submit joint annual reports to Congress to include (1) an assessment of the domestic terrorism threat posed by white supremacists, including their infiltration of law enforcement; (2) an analysis of incidents or attempted incidents of domestic terrorism that have occurred in the United States since April 19, 1995, the date of the Oklahoma City bombing; and (3) a quantitative analysis of domestic terrorism assessment, investigations, arrests, indictments and prosecutions, which must both include the review of federal hate crime charges to determine whether they also constitute domestic terrorism-related incidents and be accompanied by a certification that each assessment described is in compliance with all applicable civil rights and civil liberties laws and regulations.
In June, President Joe Biden announced the first ever National Strategy for Combating Domestic Terorrism, establishing a coordinated approach that protects the nation by treating domestic terrorism like the urgent threat it is, while ensuring protections for civil liberties.
The bill’s passage this evening comes after Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo in which 13 people, 11 of whom were Black, were shot – ten fatally – inside Tops Friendly Market by an 18-year-old white supremacist. The shooting at Tops came in the midst of two other hate motivated shootings across the country in the last week. On Sunday, the day after the shooting in Buffalo, a man shot six people – one fatally – during a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church. Law enforcement have confirmed the shooting was hate motivated and targeting the Taiwanese community. And on Friday, Dallas police announced that they believed three recent shootings at Asian-owned businesses in the area may be connected and could be hate-motivated. The latest shooting, last Wednesday, resulted in three Korean women being shot and wounded.
Tackling armed extremism and white supremacy requires a multi-pronged approach, and a recalibration of the fabric of our country. This includes ensuring that the federal government is taking a coordinated approach to make sure it is tracking and following these violent extremists to stop violence before it happens. In addition to this bill, here are three ways we can empower the response while strengthening the tools we have to disarm hate:
1. Disarm Domestic Terrorists and White Supremacists: Any national security response to domestic terrorism and violent white supremacy must center and make available to states those tools that disrupt access to guns. New York enacted a strong Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) tool but we just witnessed what happens when that tool stays in the toolbox. The Buffalo shooter made threats to commit a school shooting that were investigated by State Police and he was sent for a mental health evaluation while at the same time being radicalized with white supremacist ideology. An ERPO would have removed any guns he had access to while denying him the ability to purchase new ones. There must be an unequivocal commitment to using the tools at our disposal to disarm domestic terrorists that have shown evidence of being a threat to our communities. That includes:
- Enacting and fully implementing tools like ERPOs that can remove guns from individuals found during investigations to be engaged in domestic extremist or white supremacist activities. There must be mandatory training on how ERPOs can be used to disarm violent extremists. Existing federal grant programs can be used to support training and technical assistance for states to implement Extreme Risk laws.
- Congress passing a strong federal Extreme Risk law that would support the states that have passed Extreme Risk laws, encourage additional states to pass strong Extreme Risk laws, and establish a strong federal Extreme Risk process that can be used in federal courts in all fifty states.
- Closing the federal and state loopholes in our background check laws and stopping the proliferation of ghost guns so prohibited domestic terrorists cannot purchase guns.
2. A Coordinated National Response to Confront Domestic Terrorism: The federal government must use all the resources and tools at its disposal to combat domestic terrorism and that requires leadership. In June 2021, President Joe Biden initiated a national strategy for combating domestic terrorism that must be robustly implemented. The President has taken the crucial step of nominating an ATF Director who has the experience combating hate necessary to support that mission: Steve Dettelbach.
- There are many federal agencies engaged in the work to confront domestic terrorism and white supremacy and ATF is a key player. ATF is responsible for identifying and cracking down on the ways in which domestic terrorists get armed.
- Dettelbach has the experience prosecuting domestic violent extremists and has worked both inside and outside of government to implement broader strategies to confront domestic terrorism. He is the right person to ensure this critical agency is doing all it can to identify how domestic terrorists get armed and what we can do to make sure they don’t have access to guns.
3. The Gun Industry Is Part of the Problem and Must be Part of the Solution: The firearms industry caters to extremists seeking the tactical weaponry necessary to commit acts of terror while simultaneously shielding itself from liability and scrutiny. It supports laws and policies that enable extremists to easily and legally arm themselves. It embraces and funds gun lobby groups that amplify dangerous lies of extremist movements in a bid to capture their political fervor. And then its ads irresponsibly romanticize warfare and glorifies combat weapons in civilian hands. And yet, the industry enjoys special protections so it can’t be held accountable for its contributions to gun violence and domestic terrorism.
- Congress should repeal all of the gun industry’s special protections, including the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), so it can be held accountable for supplying the weaponry used to commit acts of terror.
- Gun sellers must be trained to identify signs that a buyer is engaged in domestic terrorism just like they are trained to identify straw purchasers so that they can truly be the front lines in denying sales to people who are bent on committing mass murder.
- The Federal Trade Commission must take action to reign in the deceptive and dangerous marketing by gun companies.