Sen. Martha McSally on Wednesday proposed legislation that would make domestic terrorism a distinct federal crime.
The Arizona Republican’s bill would close a loophole that blocks federal prosecutors from pursuing domestic terrorism charges against suspects. Currently, there is a criminal statute for international terrorism, but not one for domestic. Authorities typically charge domestic terrorism suspects with hate crimes or weapons offenses.
The proposal comes amid increased calls for a federal domestic terrorism statue after deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this month left 31 people dead.
The Justice Department is treating the El Paso shooting as domestic terrorism. The 21-year-old suspect who is accused of killing 22 people allegedly wrote a racist essay against Hispanics.
“For too long we have allowed those who commit heinous acts of domestic terrorism to be charged with related crimes that don’t portray the full scope of their hateful actions,” Ms. McSally said in a statement. “The bill I am introducing will give federal law enforcement the tools they have asked for so that they can punish criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ms. McSally’s draft bill would allow federal authorities to charge suspects with domestic terrorism, criminalize politically motivated violence and recognize terror victims. It would also enable law enforcement to focus resources combating domestic terrorism.
The proposed legislation would also impose a range of punishments for those convicted of domestic terrorism resulting in murder, including life in prison or the death penalty. It would require the Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security to compile an annual report of domestic terror threats. The reports would include an “analysis of incidents or attempted incidents of domestic terrorism that have occurred in the United States.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray last month told a Senate panel its domestic terrorism investigations are on the rise. He said the bureau’s probes led to the 100 arrests in the past nine months.
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