Aug 11, 2019

GOP Rep. Steve Scalise calls for domestic terrorism to be a federal crime

House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that he supports making domestic terrorism a federal crime after mass shooters in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people last weekend.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think domestic terrorism should be a federal crime?
SCALISE: I do, and in fact I applaud what's being done both at the FBI and with our new acting homeland security secretary. His first week in office, he put in place a task force to go look at a lot of the online recruiting that's gone on to radicalize people. We're seeing a very alarming increase in domestic terrorism. ... We need to make sure the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have the tools they need to go and root out — whether it's white supremacist, whether it's radicals from the left that are committing some of these crimes."

The big picture: Federal authorities have launched domestic terrorism investigations into the incident in El Paso and the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, which killed 3 people earlier this month. Because there is currently no clear federal domestic terrorism statute, the Justice Department cannot prosecute these cases under the same terrorism laws applied to foreign nationals.

  • The FBI Agents Association on Tuesday called for Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime, stating: "This would ensure that FBI Agents and prosecutors have the best tools to fight domestic terrorism.”
  • When pressed on what specific "tools" Republicans would vote to give law enforcement, Scalise said funding for resources to help understand and curb online extremism will be a priority when Congress undertakes the budget process in September.

Go deeper: El Paso suspect confessed to targeting Mexicans in mass shooting

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Kamala Harris outlines plan to tackle domestic terrorism

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a gun safety forum at Iowa Events Center on Aug. 10. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) released a plan Wednesday to tackle domestic terrorism by limiting gun access, following mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton this month.

Why it matters: Domestic terrorism is a growing threat in the U.S. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress in July that the bureau had made about 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the first 3 quarters of this fiscal year. Harris is the latest 2020 candidate to address this issue.

Go deeperArrowAug 15, 2019

West Texas shooter reportedly purchased firearm through private sale

Police cars and tape block off a crime scene near to where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater in Odessa, Texas, following a mass shooting in the area. Photo: Cengiz Yar/Getty Images

Authorities tell ABC News and other media outlets that the gunman who killed 7 people and injured 22 others in a drive-by mass shooting in the West Texas sister cities of Odessa and Midland on Saturday afternoon obtained his firearm through a private sale.

Why it matters: The suspect, 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator of Odessa, had tried to buy a firearm in January 2014 but was denied, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement Tuesday. The agency said it could not legally disclose why, but a law enforcement official told AP it was due to a "mental health issue." The revelation is sure to drive the political debate over closing background check loopholes like the one that allows private vendors to sell weapons without asking about the buyer's legal status.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 3, 2019

In gun reform plan, Beto O'Rourke wants to hold social media liable

Beto O’Rourke speaks at a campaign re-launch on August 15 in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke wants to hold social media platforms liable for failing to ban "hateful activities" like harassment, white nationalism or defamation in his newly unveiled gun reform plan.

Be smart: Efforts to limit or amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which shields platforms like Google and Facebook from legal liability for users' posts — have historically failed because of free speech protections granted by the First Amendment.

Go deeperArrowAug 17, 2019