A father consoles his children at the site of a mass shooting on Saturday afternoon at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
May 19 (UPI) -- Days after a gunman killed 10 people in a Buffalo, N.Y., shooting investigated as a hate crime, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to combat domestic terrorism.
Bill H.R. 350, or the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, passed 221-203, mostly along party lines Wednesday with only one Republican joining Democrats in approval. The bill would specifically create offices within the departments of homeland security and justice, as well as within the FBI to monitor, analyze, investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism.
It will also require biannual reporting on domestic terrorism nationwide to aid the new offices to focus their resources on the most significant threats, as well as create a interagency task force to combat White supremacist and neo-Nazi membership in uniformed services and federal law enforcement.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted that he will hold a vote on the bill next week "as we work to root out domestic violent extremism, like what led to the heinous attack we saw in Buffalo."
Payton Gendron, a White 18-year-old, has been charged with shooting 13 people, 11 of whom were Black, at a Buffalo supermarket in a case being treated as a "racially motivated" hate crime.
President Joe Biden during a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday called the mass shooting domestic terrorism while stating "White supremacy is a poison" as the suspect had written a manifesto that included racist conspiracy theories.
The vote was held after Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., the bill's author, called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Monday to hold the vote in the wake of the attack.
"The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is what Congress can do this week to try to prevent future Buffalo shootings," Schneider said in a statement early this week. "We need to ensure the federal law enforcement has the resources they need to best pre-emptively identify and thwart extremist violence wherever the threat appears."
From the floor Wednesday, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, called on his colleagues to vote down the legislation, accusing it of being a Democratic measure to weaponize government.
"Now, what happened in Buffalo was as wrong as wrong could be, but this legislation wouldn't prevent the terrible crime that took place there," he said.
He also chastised the bill for mentioning White supremacy "but, of course, says nothing about threats from the left."
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said a bill targeting domestic extremism isn't the issue except that it was fashioned by Democrats whom he called extremists and said were seeking to deploy criminal and anti-terrorism authorities against "bad politics."
"This bill is about whether you want the Department of Homeland Security looking over your shoulder at the shows you watch, the websites you visit, some politically incorrect meme you liked, some joke you forwarded," he said. "How long until mainstream Christianity is deemed domestic extremism?"
Schneider countered that the bill does not create new criminal charges or lists to designate terrorists or groups, nor does it give law enforcement new powers but aids them to thwart such threats while including First Amendment protections.
"To my colleagues considering voting against this bill ... I ask them: If not this bill then what? And if not now, then when?" he said. "Their inaction only gives cover to the next domestic terrorist planning an attack."
"The threat is real. It is growing. And if we don't act, more people -- people praying in their houses of worship, children playing in their school yards, police officers servicing in our communities -- will die," he said.
A group prays in the street on Sunday near the site of the mass shooting on Saturday at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo