Lawmakers consider push for federal domestic terrorism laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As local law enforcement agencies are preparing to respond to potential domestic terrorism attacks following the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers are hearing from state prosecutors about a push to change federal laws.

There are currently no specific domestic terrorism charges at the federal level.

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“Labels matter,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “Prosecuting hate motivated attackers as terrorists sends the clear message that the threat of extremism is just as significant when it is based on domestic political, religious or social ideologies as it is when it’s based on violent jihadism.”

Nessel’s office investigated and charged a group of radicalized Americans last year who are accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Lawmakers also heard from Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, who pointed to the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.

It was the deadliest in our country’s history and Ford said it was not considered an act of terrorism under the law.

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“The October 1, 2017 was not considered an act of terrorism under federal law presumably due to the lack of known political motivation and lack of international nexus,” Ford said. “The phrase lone wolf has been used to reference many culprits of mass violence who are usually white. Calling someone a lone wolf implies they are not terrorists because they are not connected to state sponsored terrorists.”

The threat of domestic terrorism is a growing concern around the country following the attack at the U.S. Capitol.

“Extremist rhetoric online, rising political tensions and the proliferation of disinformation have brought us to a boiling point,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.).

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“They have left federal, state and local authorities with new unprecedented challenges dealing with this,” said Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas).

Opponents to creating a federal domestic terrorism charge have warned against such a law targeting Black and brown communities and infringing upon the right to free speech.