Indian-American presidential candidate Kamala Harris outlines plan to boost efforts against suspected domestic terrorists

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to comments by Christine Blasey Ford at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September. (Photo: Melina Mara, The Washington Post)

California Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Tuesday joined the growing number of Democratic presidential candidates to outline plans to combat domestic terrorism in the wake of massacres in Texas and Ohio earlier this month.

Harris vowed that as president she would push legislation that amounts to a “red flag” law for suspected terrorists and hate crime perpetrators. She would also require major online gun dealers like – the gun dealer’s equivalent to Craigslist – to perform background checks, which they are not required to do now because they facilitate transactions between private sellers and private buyers.

The plan builds on Harris’s gun control proposals, in which the former California attorney general promised executive action to force major gun dealers to conduct background checks, close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” that allows for purchase of weapons before background checks are complete and ban imports of assault weapons.

The plan Harris (D-Calif.) released Tuesday pulls her in line with former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, all of whom have outlined ways they would seek to combat the rise of white nationalism in addition to lessening gun violence more broadly.

Harris’s proposed legislation would empower federal courts to issue “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Orders” if law enforcement personnel or family members petition courts to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns in the wake of disturbing behavior. A study conducted by Everytown Research showed that 42 percent of shooters displayed concerning behavior before perpetrating their crimes.

Harris was the attorney general of California when the state enacted its red-flag law in response to a killing spree near the University of California-Santa Barbara by a 22-year-old man with a history of violent incidents.

President Trump mentioned such “red flag laws” as a potential step to curb gun violence in remarks in the wake of the shootings.

Harris also would direct the National Counterterrorism Center – which analyzes all terror-related intelligence – to study the threat of white-nationalist terrorism globally. She would try to add domestic terrorism to the group’s mission, though Congress currently prohibits the NCTC from handling homegrown issues.

Like Buttigieg, Castro, and others, Harris is promising a $2 billion federal investment to programs that counter hate-based ideology over 10 years. Trump has directed resources away from domestic terrorism to other counterterrorism initiatives.

Harris also would create new groups within the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and direct the FBI to monitor websites and forums that foster extremist discussions.

Though her plan is largely in keeping with those of her opponents in the Democratic primary, Harris’s approach to questions about white nationalism and white supremacy has differed from the rest of the field. Over the last week, reporters pressed her and her opponents to state whether they believe Trump is a white nationalist. Though almost all her competitors said they believed Trump is, Harris would not go quite that far. On Saturday, as she spoke to reporters at the Iowa State Fair, Harris expressed concerns with the question itself.

“It’s being asked a lot. It begins and ends with the question and then the answer to it, as opposed to recognizing the long history in the United States of this as an issue – the issue of hate,” Harris said. ” . . . This is not new in America. Hate is not new. Hate that takes the form of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia is not new in our country. And I will not participate in a conversation that simplifies this issue.”

Harris has described Trump as “a racist” who encouraged violence with his rhetoric.



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