GOP Sen. Martha McSally drafts bill making domestic terrorism a federal crime

Sen. Martha McSally is seeking to make domestic terrorism a distinct federal crime, the latest sign that Republicans are increasingly serious about crafting a legislative response to recent mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and California.

The Arizona Republican is aiming to close a loophole in the law that prevents federal authorities from specifically punishing domestic terrorism, according to a discussion draft circulated to other offices. McSally, an Air Force veteran, said in releasing the draft that “domestic terrorism is in our backyard and we need to call it and treat it under the law the same as other forms of terrorism.” Authorities frequently charge domestic terrorism suspects with other offenses.

 

“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,” she said. “That stops with my bill. 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.”

The bill is likely to garner significant co-sponsors in the coming days, according to an aide familiar with the effort. The draft bill would criminalize politically motivated violence, recognize victims of terrorism and allow federal authorities to charge suspects with acts of domestic terrorism.

 

FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators last month that the FBI is “aggressively” fighting domestic terrorism, but some lawmakers contend that creating domestic terrorism laws would be another tool to fight homegrown terror. In response to recent shootings, Republicans in the Senate are also discussing expanding background checks during gun sales, installing “red flag” laws that would allow authorities to take away at taking weapons from dangerous people, and cracking down on straw purchases of guns, according to senators.

McSally is running against Mark Kelly in Arizona’s 2020 special election for the late John McCain's Senate seat, a contest in which firearms and fighting crime will loom large. Kelly is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), and the two have been fighting to push Congress to respond to mass shooting since Giffords was shot and seriously wounded in 2011. McSally has said she is open to expanding background checks but wants to preserve Second Amendment rights.

 

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