“How do you stop these people?” President Trump asked at a campaign rally, soliciting ideas to stop migrants seeking asylum at the border. “Shoot them!” one man yelled. Trump smiled.
A few weeks later, a young man motivated by white nationalism drove over 600 miles to the border city of El Paso, Texas where he is accused of shooting and killing 22 innocent people.
“This attack was a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” the confessed shooter wrote online, echoing Trump’s racist rhetoric calling immigrants “rapists” and fear mongering about “invaders.” This was the largest anti-Latino massacre in modern U.S. history and is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.
This horrific tragedy is not an isolated incident. White nationalism is on the rise while military-grade firearms are more easily available than ever.
The gun violence epidemic is devastating families and communities in big cities and small towns, and an entire generation is growing up afraid for their safety no matter where they live.
Whether in a school, a movie theater, or a shopping mall, weak gun laws are enabling mass violence. Students in Newtown, Parkland, and Santa Barbara; people of faith in Pittsburgh, Sutherland Springs and Charleston; people out for a night in Orlando, Las Vegas and Dayton — they should all still be with us. That’s why we need to take immediate action to disarm hate.
As a candidate for president, this issue is not only political, it’s personal. My wife Erica, an educator, and I are raising a daughter and son who both have brown skin. We worry for them and their friends. They should be able to grow up free from fear of hate and safe from gun violence. Their safety is our foremost responsibility.
The toxic brew of guns and hate taking place in the U.S. is a significant threat, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As FBI Director Wray testified to Congress, “the majority of the domestic terrorism cases [the FBI has] investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” President Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary McAleenan said, “white supremacist extremist violence” is a “huge issue” and an “increasingly concerning threat.” Over the past decade, 56 percent of extremist murders were by people with white supremacist ideology.
White supremacy is not only an ideology of America’s past, it is one that persists today. Building a more inclusive society must start with condemning white supremacy.
My plan to disarm hate starts with comprehensively identifying the threat of white supremacist terrorism and combatting it directly with a coordinated federal response. We’ll also invest in programs to fight radicalization and educational opportunities to bridge racial and cultural divides, and lead a global coalition to defeat this rising tide of white nationalism.
Our nation’s weak gun laws enable violent extremism.
The United States is the only advanced nation in the world where mass shootings occur on a daily basis. One hundred people are killed by guns every single day on average — almost 40,000 per year. An epidemic of gun violence is disproportionately affecting people and communities of color, inflicting trauma and pain on the most disadvantaged among us. While every nation has video games, mental illnesses, and violent crime, we are the only nation with more guns than people. We are fewer than five percent of the world’s population, but we account for 35 percent of all homicides and 45 percent of firearms in the world. Violent crime in America is more deadly because of easy access to guns. But we know how to address this challenge. What we lack is the political courage to act, and Mitch McConnell, the NRA, and the filibuster will not stand in our way.
Common sense gun safety laws save lives. We need universal background checks without NRA loopholes to keep guns out of the wrong hands. We need a renewed assault weapons ban and strict limits on high-capacity magazines to reduce gun fatalities. We should invest in a gun buyback program to decrease the number of guns on the streets. We need to institute Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws and invest in community-driven violence prevention programs. And yes, we need a federal licensing program to buy and own a gun that includes fingerprints, a law enforcement interview, and a gun safety course. These are smart, reasonable reforms that improve safety for everyone, including police officers.
Now is our moment to decide what kind of country we want to be. We can be paralyzed by fear of extremism and cower before the corporate gun lobby, or we can combat white supremacist terrorism directly and end the gun violence epidemic that has plagued our nation for too long. There is a movement in America to change our gun safety laws and fight for our future. Our time to act is now.