House Advances Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to Better Equip Federal Agencies to Fight Homegrown Terrorists

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The U.S. House of Representatives warned racially motivated extremists, white supremacists and other purveyors of domestic terrorism last week with its advancement of the Homeland Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA, HR 350).

Supporters have sought to advance such a bill since at least 2017, with its most recent incarnation introduced by U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) in January 2021. Both this and a related bill of the Senate – led by US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) – focuses on domestic violent extremist (DVE) groups and individuals, mandating new offices focused on their threat within the Departments of Justice (DoJ) and Homeland Security (DHS), as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“The passage of the Prevention of Domestic Terrorism Act sends the message that we support federal law enforcement, we support American communities, and we oppose domestic terrorism,” Schneider said. “The American people deserve to feel safe in their schools, in their supermarkets, in their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques.”

The FBI reported that in 2020 the United States experienced the highest level of hate crimes in more than a decade. Based on this, the DTPA would require watchdog agencies to report semi-annually on the status of domestic terrorism threats and focus their resources on those threats deemed most significant by the number of incidents described in the report. While the bill does not establish new types of investigations or criminal offenses or impose new lists of domestic terrorists, its supporters say it would allow agencies to work more cooperatively and better equipped to deal with these threats.

“Hate crimes do not happen in a vacuum. And it’s no mystery that influential figures on the right are fanning the flames of hate,” Durbin said. He added, “This legislation is an opportunity for members of Congress to unite against hate. Now that the House has passed it, I hope the Senate will follow soon. By signing this legislation, we can take important steps to improve the federal response to the scourge of hate and violence that has claimed the lives of far too many Americans.

Domestic terror took the form of two incidents this month at a California church and a New York supermarket, respectively. Although the hatred that drove them appeared to differ depending on the authorities – the former being political and the latter perpetrated against black Americans – 11 people were killed and others injured.

“We have seen a steady increase in the rise of domestic terrorism, and especially white nationalism in this country,” said U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL). “During the pandemic, we have seen a sharp increase in attacks on Asian American communities. We have seen countless shootings in synagogues and attacks on American Jews. Our LGBTQ+ communities have also been attacked. Of course, last weekend we saw a white nationalist go for hours to shoot black Americans in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY Enough is enough – we can’t sit back and allow this local terrorism to continue.

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