By: Andrew Mulrooney
Always nimble when cameras are nearby, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo days ago advanced a first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law to include mass violence motivated by hate.
Under the proposal, mass shootings against a group of people based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation would be punishable by up to life in prison without parole.
“This change would effectively treat these acts as they should: as terrorist crimes, carrying the same penalty as other terrorist crimes,” Cuomo’s office said in a release. The Governor also called on the federal government to enact a new federal domestic terrorism law that would finally define acts of homegrown terror committed on United States soil as terrorism. He also called on the federal government to ban the weapons most often used to perpetrate these mass killings — military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines–and to enact universal background checks.
“White supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-LGBTQ white nationalists–these are Americans committing mass hate crimes against other Americans and it should be recognized for what it is: domestic terrorism,” said Cuomo. “It is not just repulsive, immoral, and anti-American–it is illegal and we must confront it by enacting a new law to fit the crime.”
In his prepared remarks, the governor said, “We are living a recurring American nightmare. The 22 mostly Latino victims in El Paso are the most recent innocent to fall victims to the scourge of hate. The devastation of these continuing horrific events leaves us literally grasping for words. Why? Because there are no words and politicians’ expressions offering “thoughts and prayers” are now almost insulting when they should be taking action and passing laws.”
Cuomo continued, “When we look back at this era we will see that this has been one of the most polarizing and divisive in our history, a society indelibly scarred by the toxic cocktail of guns and hate. Now sadly hate is nothing new in our country. Diversity is the American DNA and differences can cause fear and hatred. And good Lord knows that our country bears the scars of that hatred: the Ku Klux Klan, the Tulsa race riot of 1921 killing hundreds of Africans Americans, the Texas massacre in 1918 when Texas rangers summarily executed 15 Mexicans.”
He concluded, “But we thought that was part of our ugly yesterday, not our reality today and not threatening our tomorrow. When Abraham Lincoln asked whether a nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure, he was asking the fundamental perpetual question that every generations of Americans must answer. And it was answered at Gettysburg, it was answered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it was answered on 9/11 and today the American people are calling us to answer that same question once more.”