Renewed Efforts for Domestic Terrorism Law

August 14, 2019 U. S. Senator Martha McSally (AZ-R) announced plans to introduce a bill that makes domestic terrorism a federal offense when Congress reconvenes next month.

Currently, there is a federal criminal statute for international terrorism, but not domestic terrorism. Domestic terrorism is defined in the U.S. legal code but it is not codified as a law that can be prosecuted. 

In the aftermath of back to back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last week, lawmakers are under increased pressure to enact a federal domestic terrorism law.

Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019

Earlier this year, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced S.894 – Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019, less than two weeks after the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand. U.S. House democrats introduced identical legislation the same day.

Senator Durbin originally introduced the domestic terrorism legislation in 2017. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would require federal agencies to issue an annual report on domestic terrorism and codify an interagency domestic terrorism task force, according to the draft legislation.


The FBI currently defines domestic terror as acts of violence:

“perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” 

In the nearly 18 years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil, most states have adopted terrorism laws.


Without exception, recent scientific studies revealed that white supremacist linked groups are the top threat to the homeland. According to the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, attacks on religious leaders and institutions by right-wing extremists have been on the rise in the United States since 2014. There were 15 attacks in the U.S. in 2015, 25 in 2016 and 13 in 2017. The average number of annual attacks between 2004 and 2014 was three.

In a law enforcement bulletin distributed on May 31, 2019, obtained by Yahoo News just days before the domestic terrorism attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the FBI warned that anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to engage in criminal or violent activity.” The bulletin specifically mentions QAnon, the right-wing shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump, and Pizzagate.



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