New York Aims To Become The First State To Classify White Supremacist Killings As Acts Of Domestic Terrorism

Police officers at the scene of the mass shooting in El Paso.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

The state of New York is aiming to become the first in the nation to classify white supremacist attacks and other hate-fueled killings as acts of domestic terrorism, a response to the growing trend of race-fueled extremist attacks.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week a proposal to make the state the first to classify what he called “hate-fueled” killings as domestic terrorism, unveiling a proposal in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, believed to have been carried out as an act of terrorism against Hispanics. As the Independent reported, Cuomo said there is a need to address the violent epidemic of “hate-fueled, American-on-American terrorism.”

White supremacists are suspected of carrying out a number of other recent attacks, leading to criticism of Donald Trump and the federal government for failing to properly address the threat of this strain of violent extremism.

The New York legislation would raise penalties for violence that is focused on protected classes, including race, gender, and sexual orientation, making them punishable by up to life in prison without parole.

“Today, our people are three times more likely to suffer a terrorist attack launched by an American than one launched by a foreigner,” Cuomo said. “Now this is not just repulsive. This is not just immoral. This is not just anti-American. It is illegal.”

In a statement announcing the legislation, Cuomo took aim directly at hate groups that have perpetuated recent acts of domestic violence.

“White supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-LGBTQ, white nationalists: these are Americans committing mass hate crimes against other Americans,” Cuomo said. “And it should be recognized for what it is: domestic terrorism.”

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While New York looks to act on domestic violence, the Trump administration has come under fire for allegedly trying to downplay threats from white supremacist groups. As Salon reported, the administration took steps to hide a report from the Department of Justice that noted suspected white supremacists were responsible for all race-based domestic terror attacks last year.

The report, which was compiled by the New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, was distributed to the FBI and federal agencies, but was kept from the Senate Judiciary Committee when it requested the Department of Justice provide data about the number of white supremacists involved in domestic terrorism attacks. As New Jersey Senator Cory Booker noted, the panel made several requests to the FBI and Department of Justice for the data but were denied.

The report was later obtained by Yahoo News, showing 25 of the 46 suspects in 32 suspected instances of domestic terrorism were white supremacists, and that suspected white supremacists were responsible for all “race-based incidents” in 2018.