House Democrats planning to move domestic terrorism bill following Buffalo shooting
House Democrats are planning to move on a domestic terrorism bill on Tuesday after a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. over the weekend, killing 10 people in what authorities are calling a hate crime.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told reporters on Monday that the group will consider the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act on Tuesday morning. A vote in the House is expected this week, though it is unclear what day that will occur.
Democratic leaders had attempted to pass the bill earlier in the month by a fast-track process but yanked it from the calendar due to opposition from some progressive lawmakers.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), the sponsor of the bill, told reporters on Monday that the legislation has been tweaked to stipulate that nothing in it would undermine First Amendment rights.
Earlier in the day, Schneider pressed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to schedule a vote on the bill, which calls for creating domestic terrorism offices in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI that would watch for and examine domestic terrorist activity.
Schneider specifically referenced several recent shootings around the country. Over the weekend, 13 people were shot at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, 10 of whom died, and one person was killed in a shooting in Laguna Woods, Calif.
Eleven of the victims in the Buffalo shooting were Black. The suspected shooter in that incident — 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, N.Y. — had reportedly espoused ideas related to the “great replacement” theory, which is a racist, far-right conspiracy.
The Illinois Democrat said passing the bill, which he reintroduced in the House in January, is one way to help prevent future massacres. A version of the bill previously passed in a voice vote in 2020.
“The rise of racially motivated violent extremism is a serious threat to Americans across the country,” Schneider wrote.
“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. 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,” he added.
Schneider also noted “warning signs” linked to Gendron, including that he made a threat in high school.
“The government and law enforcement have failed to catch these signs, just as Congress has failed to appropriately combat domestic terrorism. As a result, ten people, most of them Black, are dead at a Buffalo supermarket,” Schneider wrote. “We cannot continue making excuses.”
The bill specifically advocates for a Domestic Terrorism Unit in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the DHS, which would monitor and analyze domestic terrorism activity, and a Domestic Terrorism Office in the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the DOJ, which would investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism occurrences and be in contact with the Civil Right Division for situations that may be hate crimes.
Additionally, the legislation urges the creation of a Domestic Terrorism Section in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, which would investigate activity connected to domestic terrorism.
The offices would remain open for 10 years after the legislation is enacted and would be required to submit a report to top law enforcement officials every six months. The reports, according to the bill, would include assessments of domestic terrorism threats posed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis and analyses of domestic terrorism occurrences or attempted instances.
The offices would also be required to review all federal hate crime charges and convictions to decide if the incident also has a connection to domestic terrorism.
Additionally, the legislation would compel the federal government to take actions that would help stop domestic terrorism.
The bill also calls for the creation of a Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, which would be required to meet at least four times a year “to coordinate with United States Attorneys and other key public safety officials across the country to promote information sharing and ensure an effective, responsive, and organized joint effort to combat domestic terrorism.”
Additionally, the legislation calls for the creation of an interagency task force, which would be required to “analyze and combat White supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services and Federal law enforcement agencies” and then present a report to top law enforcement figures and key congressional committees.
—Updated at 9:01 p.m.