(Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for new laws that would prosecute hate-motivated acts of mass violence as terrorism.
His proposed Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act would be the first in the U.S., covering any person who kills in a mass attack on the basis of race, religion, creed or sexual orientation. Penalties for such acts should be the same as for other terrorism crimes -- up to life in prison without parole.
“It is now a two-front War on Terrorism; it is fed by hate, but hate from abroad and hate right here at home,” Cuomo told a gathering of lawyers at the New York City Bar Association in Manhattan in a speech frequently interrupted by applause. “These are Americans committing mass hate-crimes against other Americans and it should be recognized for what it is -- domestic terrorism.”
The failure of President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to act in the aftermath of the Aug. 3 shooting at an El Paso Walmart that targeted Latinos, killing 22 people and injuring 24 others, requires the state of New York to act, the governor said. Mass killings are three-times more likely to occur at the hands of a U.S. citizen than a terrorist attack launched by perpetrators from outside the country, he said.
“The president’s partisan political interest has trumped his responsibility to protect the public,” Cuomo said, explaining his rationale for a state law. The federal government’s history of gun regulation goes back to 1934, and included a 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994 during former President Bill Clinton’s administration, Cuomo said.
New York banned assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and toughened background checks six years ago in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Cuomo said the federal government should do the same.
The three-term governor, who has repeatedly said he’s not a candidate for president in 2020, called upon Democratic presidential candidates and members of congress to unify in backing tough gun control measures to “end the carnage.”
It’s up to the Democrats, he said, to “expose this president and the Republican senators as the political cowards they are and the lackeys for the gun industry that they serve,” Cuomo said. “This is no time for Democratic division or for legislative baby steps.”
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