BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The mass shooting last Saturday in Buffalo has many lawmakers in Washington sounding the alarm.
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., spoke with News 4 Friday about the effort on Capitol Hill to combat and federally criminalize domestic terrorism.
On Wednesday, the House passed a bill mostly along party lines on that seeks to create domestic terrorism offices throughout the U.S. government.
Higgins said the shooting Saturday was a vial premeditated attack by a white supremacist on a Black community in Buffalo.
“My head is with my people. I was at a service this morning, I’ll be at more services moving forward and this is a terrible tragedy,” he said. “You saw the anguish on faces of people who have been directly affected by this and the general community.”
Higgins said, “we need to act more decisively on assault weapons issues as it relates to social media, cable news television and what kind of speech is allowed and what isn’t — what poses a clear and present danger and what does not.”
Higgins said the situation in Buffalo is not new to the nation, but is new to Buffalo.
The bill, dubbed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, passed in a 222-203 vote, with one Republican bucking party leadership and voting for the legislation.
“What it simply would allow is for federal law enforcement agencies to share information that they have on potential targets for these kind of attacks and potential perpetrators as well,” Higgins said.
Higgins said the bill would also provide more resources from the federal government to localities and states to better deal with these type of issues.
“People should be able to be safe but they should also be able to feel safe in their communities,” he said.
The bill calls for establishing a Domestic Terrorism Unit in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS, which would be tasked with observing and examining domestic terrorism activity, in addition to a Domestic Terrorism Office in the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the DOJ, which would look into and prosecute domestic terrorism incidents and communicate with the Civil Right Division about occurrences that may be considered hate crimes.
The bill now heads to the Senate where Higgins said the chance of it being passed is not good.
“Even common since gun safety legislation like extensive background checks that the vast majority of Americans support is held up in the Senate,” Higgins said. “The filibuster rule in the Senate makes these bills more difficult to get through.”