It is with a heavy heart that I pen this today. Following the senseless massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, let me unequivocally state: White supremacy and domestic terrorism have no place in this country.
Rising numbers of white supremacists and nationalists have been emboldened by President Trump’s messages since he took office. The racist rhetoric and attacks on immigrants and people of color by the president of United States have undoubtedly contributed to the rise in hate crimes and mass shootings in this country. It is hard to take the president’s condemnations of white supremacy seriously after he stated there were “fine people on both sides” in the aftermath of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago.
The Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that left 22 people dead and dozens more wounded proves to me that the president’s rhetoric had a direct effect on the motives of the suspected mass shooter when he posted a manifesto that described his “intense hatred for immigrants and Mexicans” and cited President Trump by name.
The media reported that the shooter resided just outside of Dallas. He made a premeditated plan to kill as many “Mexicans” as possible and drove 10 hours to El Paso to commit this heinous crime. What will continue to run through my mind is that the drive from Dallas to McAllen takes roughly the same amount of time. This same man could have driven to any other community along the 2,000-plus miles that the U.S. and Mexico share along the border.
So where do we go from here? How do we transform our immense grief and anger into solutions that will move America forward?
I agree with my colleagues that Senator Mitch McConnell must bring up the House-passed legislation that would implement universal background checks for a vote in the U.S. Senate without delay. But both chambers need to enact legislation that addresses the growing threat of domestic terrorism, white supremacy and other violent domestic extremism.
In March, my fellow Members of Congress Brad Schneider, D-Ill., Robin Kelly, D-Ill. and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., introduced The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to target homegrown white nationalism and terrorism. The bill would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess this threat and provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing it.
According to a May 2017 FBI and Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin, white supremacist extremism poses a persistent threat of lethal violence, and white supremacists were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 — more than any other domestic extremist movement. As of today, there are at least 22 more souls that we can add to that tragic list.
It is impossible for us to imagine the immense grief of the families and loved ones who were affected by these hate-filled shootings, but if Congress and the president want to honor the memories of those who died, we must demonstrate strength, resolve and unity. If President Trump is earnest in his condemnation of white nationalism, he must take concrete steps to reflect it.
Mr. President, this is a call to action unlike any other. I implore you to urge the Senate to pass common-sense gun safety legislation and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to keep our communities safe from the growing threat of white nationalism.
As we process these events in the coming weeks and months, a few things are certain: we cannot be silent, we need to keep Americans safe from the threat of homegrown terrorism, and we must take action to prevent this from ever happening again.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column by Congressman Vicente Gonzalez appears in the Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s approval. The main image accompanying the guest column shows Gonzalez being presented with Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography by members of the India Association of the Rio Grande Valley. Gonzalez spoke at the group’s India Independence Day celebrations recently. Click here to read what he said.