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FBI agents call on Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime

Mourners holding up candles at a vigil for those lost in El Paso.
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The FBI Agents Association released a statement on Tuesday urging Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime, arguing that it would that would ensure that FBI agents and prosecutors have the "best tools" to fight it.

Driving the news: Two mass shootings perpetrated over the weekend by American citizens left 31 dead, bringing the issue of domestic terrorism back into the national conversation. The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas says he will be treating the shooting at an El Paso Walmart as a domestic terrorism case. However, because there is currently no clear federal domestic terrorism statute, the Justice Department cannot prosecute the case under the same terrorism laws applied to foreign nationals.

What they're saying:

"Domestic terrorism is a threat to the American people and our democracy. Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them. FBIAA continues to urge Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. This would ensure that FBI Agents and prosecutors have the best tools to fight domestic terrorism.”

But, but, but: Congress is currently on August recess, stalling their ability to act immediately on legislation. Democrats and some Republicans have been calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to cancel recess to address the mass shootings through measures like background checks.