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People First Plan to Disarm Hate:

Combating White Nationalism and the Gun Violence Epidemic

“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.

Action to Combat Hate and Domestic Terrorism

1. Rebalance domestic terrorism investigations and enforcement to ensure they are focused on the most urgent threats.

In 2019, most of the domestic terrorism arrests by the FBI have been related to white supremacist terrorism. This is a clear and present threat to our collective security.

2. Invest in programs to combat hate and domestic terrorism.

The Trump administration has demonstrated it does not take hate and domestic terrorism seriously. He has retooled existing programs to focus on Muslim, black, LGBTQ, immigrant, and refugee communities rather than recognize the rising threat of white supremacist terrorism.

3. Exercise global leadership by coordinating with partner countries, civil liberty advocates, and internet platforms to address the spread of violent extremism on the internet.

The United States is not the only country to confront white supremacist terrorism. The incidents in Norway and New Zealand indicate a global challenge where extremists communicate and consume the same content online.

Action to End the Gun Violence Epidemic

1. Immediate Executive Action.

​On day one as president, I will sign executive orders to end the gun violence epidemic. The American people have waited far too long for meaningful, common sense reforms on gun safety.

2. Implement universal background checks and close NRA loopholes.

We must change our laws to ensure dangerous individuals cannot buy a gun. Mitch McConnell is blocking common sense background checks right now in the U.S. Senate.

3. Renew a permanent assault weapons ban.

Weapons of war do not belong in the communities of America. These firearms were designed with the singular purpose of inflicting mass human casualties.

4. Require a license to purchase firearms.

This policy will ensure gun buyers have passed a background check before they own a gun, which research suggests leads to fewer gun homicides and suicides.

5. Reform ammunition laws.

In Dayton, the gunman fired 41 shots in 30 seconds and killed 9 individuals. Even though the police arrived within minutes, the shooter was able to kill too many because of high capacity magazines that can hold dozens of rounds. The shooter in Las Vegas fired over 1,100 rounds of ammunition into a crowd of concert-goers, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.

6. Invest in community-driven violence prevention programs, research into gun violence, and data collection.

The gun violence epidemic is a public health issue that requires research, evidence-based solutions, and action led by communities affected by gun violence. Because of NRA-backed laws, the United States is unable to research gun violence as a public health issue or effectively collect data to inform policy and research.

7. Hold gun manufacturers accountable.

Civil liability is an important legal tool for gun violence victims to pursue justice and hold gun sellers and manufacturers responsible for their products.

8. Support safety measures to prevent accidental harm, unauthorized access to firearms, and safeguard schools and universities.

Each year, thousands of people are injured because of unintentional discharges, many of whom are children. Current federal law exempts firearms from consumer safety standards that reduce unintentional deaths, and we need laws to store firearms securely.

9. Invest in mental healthcare to combat suicides, and support for victims of gun violence, including post-trauma recovery.

Too often, mental health is blamed for gun violence in an effort to deflect from the need for real reform. This ignores the real impact of mental health on gun violence: easy access to firearms contributes to too many lives lost to suicide and too many lives harmed by trauma from gun violence. Over 60 percent of gun deaths in the United States are the result of suicide, and we have failed to prioritize mental health care.

10. Institute Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws.

Empower families, household members, and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from an individual at risk of harming themselves or others by supporting state governments with grants to implement and enforce these laws.