Over the weekend, 11 people were killed and more injured across two separate shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Laguna Woods, Calif., and with them as a backdrop, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) says it is past time for a House vote on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350).
“The rise of racially motivated violent extremism is a serious threat to Americans across the country,” Schneider said after the shootings.
In Buffalo, where 10 were killed by an avowed white supremacist, Payton Gendron, at a predominantly Black supermarket, law enforcement is officially investigating the matter as a hate crime. According to the shooter’s messages and detailed posts online, he had planned to attack the supermarket as far back as February and had intended to attack other locations as well to maximize a targeted assault on the African American community.
“I want to be clear, for my part, from everything we know, this was a targeted attack, a hate crime, and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking on the attack, told a collection of law enforcement and community leaders this week.
On Sunday, 60-year-old David Chou opened fire at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Southern California during a lunch reception, killing one and injuring five others before being stopped by parishioners. Authorities labeled that attack politically motivated hate.
The suspects in both attacks have been arrested.
Schneider pointed to both as examples of domestic terrorism and urged his colleagues to vote on the DTPA, introduced in January 2021, to counter the spread of domestic violent extremist groups and individuals.
“The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is what Congress can do this week to try to prevent future Buffalo shootings – to prevent future California shootings, future El Paso shootings, future Charleston shootings, future Pittsburgh shootings, future Wisconsin shootings,” Schneider said. “We need to ensure that federal law enforcement has the resources they need to best preemptively identify and thwart extremist violence wherever the threat appears.”
A previous iteration of this bill was voted through the House in 2020 with support from both sides of the political aisle. The most recent version passed out of committee in April. It would authorize the creation of domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Justice Department (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). All would be required to report biannually on the state of domestic terrorism threats and focus their resources on the most significant threats.
While the bill would stop short of mandating new lists of domestic terrorists or creating new criminal offenses and investigative powers, it would mandate greater attention to the issue by law enforcement and better equip them to deal with it.