Does the United States Need a Domestic Terrorism Law?

The attacks on the U.S Capital on January 6t brought back talks of possibly writing and implementing a domestic terrorism law into the books. This would allow federal law enforcement to seek and bring to justice those who wish to harm the United States, very similar to what they do now with foreign terrorists. However, due to the sensitivity of going after American citizens, the debate on this type of law had usually been more whispers than a full-blown debate. But as the nation saw a mob of insurrections attempting to overtake the U.S Capital, those whispers have quickly grown to roars from across the nation and even from our current president. However, the question begs, do we really need a domestic terrorism law in place?

No Charges Filed

As stated above, many of the country's leaders, specifically President Biden, called the mob of Trump supporters a group of "Domestic Terrorists." Supporters of President Biden and even some Republicans stated that what the mob did clearly met the legal standards of domestic terrorism. This is because the goal of the mob was clear, and that was to stop the certification of the electoral votes, which would confirm then-President-elect Biden/Vice-President-elect Harris's victory. Those actions are in violation of U.S law which states that they intended to "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion". However, even with the video footage, most of those who attacked the capital will face no domestic terrorism charges. This is because federal law enforcement, although given the power to pursue and capture international terrorists, cannot do so if they are American citizens. It was this type of event that had prompted many lawmakers in the past to create a domestic terrorism law, especially targeting right-wing radicalism who have caused the most trouble in terms of violence.

Increasing Debate & Approval?

Proponents of the law state that what the nation witnessed on January 6 is just one example of how a lack of control over homegrown extremism can quickly lead to violence. Other examples proponents are using to justify a domestic terrorism law include the Wal-Mart mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, as well as other similar shootings which targeted groups of minorities. A domestic terrorism law will not only allow federal law enforcement the ability to closer pursuit these people and stop them from living out their plots, but they can also impose harsh punishments as well.

However, opponents of this type of bill echo the past injustices of similar temporary laws that allowed federal law enforcement to harass members of the Muslim community after 9/11 as well as civil rights leaders during the 1960's civil rights movement. In their eyes, the government has not had the best record of applying their laws fairly. Instead, they suggest that law enforcement concentrate on the true threats rather than simply enacting a broad law that will undoubtedly be abused. This will accomplish the goal of removing dangerous white supremacist groups while protecting the rights of the majority of innocent Americans.

The President's Next Move

Although much of President Biden's time has been taken up by the newest COVID-19 relief bill, his campaign website stated that he would be working on a domestic terrorism law at some time during his presidency. However, even his own supporters, especially those from civil rights groups, may seek to push those views another way as they know how a federal law would likely not be effective and would probably even lead to abuse. One of the biggest criticisms of the law comes from the American Civil Liberties Union. Senior attorney for the ACLU Hugh Handeyside states that decades of evidence show how broad terrorism-related authorities can lead to the harassment of black and brown communities, especially when it comes to organizing protests.

Where will the Topic go from here?

Although the violence witnessed by many Americans on January 6 reignited this debate over a domestic terrorism law, it seems that the rapid bursts of emotions from that day have not begun to settle. For now, a domestic terrorism law may not be anything we see in the near future.

As you can see from the information above, the implementation of a domestic terrorism law into the lawbooks is still a very contested issue. In fact, unlike other key issues, this seems to be a goal that both parties tend to shy away from due to the past failures of similar laws.

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