August 15, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Advances First-in-the-Nation Domestic Terrorism Law to Include Mass Violence Motivated By Hate

Governor Cuomo Advances First-in-the-Nation Domestic Terrorism Law to Include Mass Violence Motivated By Hate

New York State "Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act" To Define Hate-Fueled Murder with the Intent to Cause Mass Casualties as an Act of Domestic Terrorism with Penalty Equivalent to Other Acts of Terrorism

Cuomo Also Calls on Congress to Enact a Federal Domestic Terrorism Law, Including Banning Weapons Used to Perpetrate These Crimes: Military Style Assault Weapons and High Capacity Magazines, and Enacting Universal Background Checks

Cuomo: "White supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-LGBTQ white nationalists - these are Americans committing mass hate crimes against other Americans and it should be recognized for what it is: domestic terrorism. It is not just repulsive, immoral, and anti-American - it is illegal and we must confront it by enacting a new law to fit the crime."

Cuomo: "There is no moment that creates change without leadership."

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today advanced a first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law to include mass violence motivated by hate. Under this proposal, mass shootings against a group of people based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation would be punishable by up to life in prison without parole. This change would effectively treat these acts as they should: as terrorist crimes, carrying the same penalty as other terrorist crimes. The Governor also called on the federal government to enact a new federal domestic terrorism law that would finally define acts of homegrown terror committed on United States soil as terrorism. He also called on the federal government to ban the weapons most often used to perpetrate these mass killings--military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines - and to enact universal background checks.

"We still treat terrorism as an act committed by foreigners," Governor Cuomo said. "It is, but only in part - it is now a two front war on terrorism. It's fed by hate: hate from abroad and hate right here at home. White supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-LGBTQ white nationalists - these are Americans committing mass hate crimes against other Americans and it should be recognized for what it is: domestic terrorism. American citizens who are radicalized not by a foreign ideology but rather radicalized by hate for other Americans are still terrorists. Today, our people are three times more likely to suffer a terrorist attack launched by an American than one launched by a foreigner. It is not just repulsive, immoral, and anti-American - it is illegal and we must confront it by enacting a new law to fit the crime."

"We do not tolerate any form of violence or hate in New York State," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This nation-leading legislation will address and prevent mass shootings against groups of people based on their race, gender, religion, and other orientations. Those who seek to divide us and threaten our safety with terrorism and violence must be punished. We are committed to protecting all New Yorkers, and we celebrate our diversity that makes us the Empire State."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "New York has led the way on protecting rights, combating extremism, and welcoming diversity. The rise in hate crimes and domestic terrorism that we are seeing around the nation is unacceptable, and New York State must step up and fight back. The Senate Democratic Majority has worked hard to protect and expand New Yorkers' rights, and ensure all residents of our state feel safe and welcome. We look forward to working with both the Governor and the Speaker to advance these important goals."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "The Assembly Majority condemns hate in all its forms and we must always confront it head on. As demonstrated by the recent mass shooting in El Paso as well as other horrific incidents in the last few years, our country is experiencing a disturbing trend of targeted hate crimes that are nothing short of domestic terrorism. I am proud that the Assembly has led the way in expanding individual rights for all New Yorkers and we must do everything we can to protect and preserve these hard fought liberties. Our diversity is our strength, and we will work with the Senate and the Governor to create effective laws to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers."

U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said, "New York will never be a place where hatred and violence is tolerated. Governor Cuomo should be commended for his stalwart leadership in the fight against gun violence and domestic terrorism. We now must act at the federal level to ban weapons of war. They have no place around our families or in our communities."

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, "Our terrorism statutes should not feed into the false notion that foreign terrorists are the only threat to our nation. We know that domestic terrorism is a serious problem, and we should update our laws to confront this sad reality. Our diversity is our strength, and I applaud Gov. Cuomo for taking these steps. I call on our federal government to follow New York's lead, and to also enact sensible gun control and ban assault weapons."


Recent mass shootings such as those at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, a nightclub in Orlando, a church in Charleston, and synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway were crimes intended to terrorize entire segments of the American citizenry. These acts are not currently treated as acts of terror; the legislation the Governor is proposing today would classify them as acts of terror.

The new state legislation the Governor is proposing today calls these acts what they are: terrorism. Under this proposal, the intent standard mirrors the standard in New York's existing hate crimes law and creates a new domestic terrorism hate crime punishable by up to life in prison without parole.

The new statute proposed by the Governor would define mass casualty as any incident that results in the murder of at least one person and the attempted murder of at least two additional people and when that violence is motivated by hate. This definition of mass casualty would parallel the FBI's definition of a mass killing - which is defined as three or more deaths.

Finally, the bill would also create a domestic terrorism task force to study mass shootings, recommend practices to prevent potential mass shootings and shooting incidents and recommend security practices in locations likely to be targeted by mass shooters. This task force would be required to provide its finding to the Governor and the Legislature.

We still treat terrorism as an act committed by foreigners.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo


The Governor also called on the federal government to enact a new federal domestic terrorism law that would finally define acts of homegrown terror committed on United States soil as terrorism. He called on the federal government to pass legislation mirroring New York State's nation-leading gun safety laws, including banning the weapons most often used to perpetrate mass killings-military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines - and requiring universal background checks.

Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York has passed the strongest gun control laws in the nation, including the SAFE Act in 2013 which keeps guns out of the hands of convicted felons and individuals with a mental illness, ensures private gun sales are subject to a background check, bans high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and toughens criminal penalties for illegal gun use.

Since the passage of the SAFE Act, 139,371 reports from mental health professionals have been received by state officials intended to keep weapons away from people with mental illnesses that are likely to "engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to self or others." These reports - which represent nearly 98,000 people with a potential dangerous mental disposition - are used to notify appropriate local licensing officials who suspend or revoke weapon licenses and prompt local law enforcement officials to remove weapons that are not surrendered.

New York State passed the laws six years ago and they have worked. No legal gun owners' rights have been violated but unnecessary, dangerous weapons are off the streets and dangerously mentally ill people cannot by guns.

The Governor also recently enacted the Red Flag bill to prevent individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others from purchasing a firearm. New York became the first state in the nation to empower its teachers and school administrators to help prevent school shootings through court intervention. This law also targets the well-known link between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence.

The Governor continued to build on New York's nation-leading gun laws this year with comprehensive legislation to: extend the background check waiting period; ban bump stocks; ban undetectable guns; expand firearm safe storage laws; prevent school districts from arming teachers; and establish statewide regulations for gun buyback programs.

Governor Cuomo Advances First-in-the-Nation Domestic Terrorism Law to Include Mass Violence Motivated by Hate

U.S. Representative Gregory W. Meeks said, "There is no question that home-grown violence inspired by prejudice or political ideology has become a dominant and lethal form of terrorism in the nation. Despite this growing trend, the federal government has failed to take proportionate action against the threats posed by white supremacy and hate groups. New York can and should make explicit the threats we recognize to be festering in the dark corners of the internet and nationalist rhetoric, and I'm proud to support Governor Cuomo in redefining domestic terrorism to account for radicalized Americans committing acts of terror."

U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney said, "We must recognize the gross displays of hate- fueled mass killings exhibited throughout our nation for what they are, terrorism. I stand with the Governor and applaud him for introducing legislation to curb domestic terrorism and ensure justice is served. Hate must never win."

U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke said, "As the federal government continues to abdicate its responsibility to protect Americans from hatred and bigotry, New York State continues to set an example for equality under Governor Cuomo's leadership. During his time in office, the Governor has made it clear that hate will not be tolerated in our state. We thank the Governor for his continued efforts to make all feel welcome, and for upholding the values that make this country great."

U.S. Representative Max Rose said, "Whether it's foreign or domestic, terrorism is terrorism and we must be clear in labeling and prosecuting it as such. I strongly support the Governor's proposal and appreciate his leadership on this critical issue to ensure the full weight of justice is brought against terrorists. No American should have to live in fear of domestic terrorism."

U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat said, "In this dark political moment, as our leaders in Washington refuse to condemn hatred and pass common-sense gun laws, Governor Cuomo ‎has shown us what real progressive leadership looks like. I applaud the Governor for enacting the nation's strongest gun laws and taking steps to classify mass hate crimes as acts of domestic terrorism."

David M. Hoovler, President, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) said, "Simply condemning bigotry amounts to nothing when our fellow Americans are in danger of losing their lives as a result of hate crimes. I applaud the Governor for recognizing this crisis of hate and violence and for taking the right action to address it, starting with the best gun safety measures in the country. We stand united with the Governor and with all of New York to fight against domestic terrorism."

Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, "Moral leadership is needed at this critical time. It is imperative to properly identify and name the threat if we are to fight it. Domestic terrorism poses as great a danger as its international counterpart. We all need to stand up to keep our families and communities safe."

Hazel Dukes, President, NY State Conference NAACP said, "New York State has long been a beacon of progressive reforms and in these difficult times is shining it's light once again. Domestic terrorism is one of the greatest threats to our society and Governor Cuomo is saying "no more." These reforms are necessary to help us heal and protect the country from further carnage. Thank you, Governor Cuomo for leading the way for us."

Imam Dr. Tahir Kukiqi, Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, said, "We are proud to stand with Governor Cuomo to put an end to the gun violence epidemic that is too often fueled by hate. Thanks to the Governor's leadership, New York has passed the most aggressive and effective gun laws in the nation. We are determined to advocate for additions reforms to keep all New Yorkers safe from hate-based terrorism."

Michael A. Hardy, Esq, EVP and General Counsel for National Action Network said, "Hate has no place in the State of New York, and Governor Cuomo has made that clear since taking office. Under the Governor's leadership with support from the state legislature and many of the state's anti-violence advocacy groups, New York has the strongest gun laws in the nation, and for that we are safer as a population. I thank the Governor for continuing to stand up and fight for these important initiatives that impact all New Yorkers and all Americans."

Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said, "Americans have the right to be safe and yet the constant threat of gun violence has gripped our citizens with fear. In New York, we are safer and stronger and other states must follow our leadership's actions. We are grateful that time and time again Governor Cuomo has heard our calls for safety and taken action to strengthen our gun laws and protect our families, schools, and communities."

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President, NY Board of Rabbis, said, "Any mass hate crime is an act of domestic terrorism and should be dealt with as such. Governor Cuomo understands that in order to empower our law enforcement to fight the threat of domestic terrorism, we must be able to identify it for what it truly is. There is no place for hate in New York and New York will take the lead in the fight against the hate-driven terror that is spreading in our nation."

Jo-ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation, said, "Our country can no longer afford to keep ignoring the issue of gun control or keep calling the attacks on our people anything but domestic terrorism. Governor Cuomo is not holding back and is calling for the country to follow New York State's lead on these issues. It is our moral obligation to join him in this fight. Thank you, Governor Cuomo for your action."

Hafida Torres, President, Moroccan American Council to Empower Women, said, "New York is leading on key issues that Washington refuses to tackle. When we call these senseless acts of crime for what they truly are, we can start working on the solutions to protect our citizens. Governor Cuomo's plan to combat domestic terrorism is aggressive, smart, and necessary. I applaud the Governor for leading the way and giving a strong example of what leadership can be in this country."

Kristen Prata Browde, Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Co-Chair, National Trans Bar Association, said, "We applaud Governor Cuomo for calling out hate-based violence and vowing to fight it for what it is: domestic terrorism. Our state is home to the Statue of Liberty, America's symbol of freedom. We join the Governor in defense of our American ideals and in determination to keep our communities safe from guns and hate."

New York State Bar Association President Hank Greenberg said, "The New York State Bar Association applauds the Governor for his leadership in combatting the scourge of mass shootings. America is in the midst of a mass shooting epidemic. Policymakers must recognize the roots of these terrible events in order to be able to address this crisis effectively. There is no more pressing issue in our society today than this, and we look forward to working closely with the Governor to address it."

Shijuade Kadree, Chief Advocacy Officer of The LGBT Community Center, said, "Gun violence and mass attacks are increasingly of concern, especially for marginalized people who are often targets of violent bigotry, discrimination and hatred. We commend Governor Cuomo's willingness to address the pervasive acts of gun violence that terrorize our communities, taking on acts of violence committed in the name of white supremacy, especially at a time when our federal government chooses not to act to protect us from this violence."

Bret Parker, Executive Director of the New York City Bar Association, said, "We have called on our elected officials to acknowledge the link between hateful rhetoric and identity-based violence, and we applaud the Governor for his efforts in tackling this issue to make our communities safer."

Guillermo Chacon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS and Founder of the Hispanic Health Network, said, "Now more than ever, the world needs to know what New York stands for. As the cancer of hate spreads across our country, New York draws strength from its diversity and stands tall as a symbol for hope. Governor Cuomo has made it forcefully clear that New Yorkers have no tolerance for hate and will stand up to it in whatever form it takes - be that dangerous rhetoric or domestic terrorism."

Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council said, "The safety of all New Yorkers is the highest priority which is why we have the strongest gun laws in the nation. Governor Cuomo knows that New York's diversity is our strength. By his taking leadership in categorizing mass hate crimes as acts of 'domestic terrorism,' Governor Cuomo is making it very clear that hate will never be tolerated in our state."

June Rubin, a volunteer with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, "In the wake of the tragic shooting in El Paso that was fueled by hate, we are proud that Governor Cuomo is taking steps to address domestic terrorism. When racism, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny come armed with a gun, they are deadly. Combined with the gun safety measures the governor has already signed into law this year, this legislation will help protect New Yorkers from gun violence."

Nico Bocour, State Legislative Director for Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, said, "Gun violence is an epidemic that impacts every corner of the country. This month's string of violence is another sad reminder we are living in fear - even when doing something as simple as shopping for school supplies. Hate-fueled violence is on the rise, and tragically we've seen what happens when someone filled with hate is easily able to get their hands on a gun. While Congress has failed to act to stop this crisis, Governor Cuomo is again showing the courage needed to fight for a safer New York."

Christian Heyne, Vice President of Policy, Brady Campaign said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking on the hate that threatens the lives of all Americans. In America, we often talk about terrorism as a foreign threat, but we need to name and address the devastating effects of heavily armed domestic terrorists in our country. Recent FBI data shows that hate-motivated crimes based on race, religion, disability, and gender are increasing. And sadly, we know all too well that easy access to guns makes hate lethal. The nation's first chapter-based organization to prevent gun violence, the Million Mom March, which laid the grassroots foundation of Brady, was created following the 1999 shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish Community Center (JCC). That act of domestic terrorism was 20 years ago this month, and our country has endured so many more hateful tragedies since: the Charleston AME shooting, the Sikh Wisconsin shooting, Pulse nightclub, Poway and Tree of Life, and most recently, the mass shootings in Gilroy and El Paso. This cannot continue. We stand with Governor Cuomo in this fight to keep guns away from those who cause harm."

Arva Rice, CEO, NY Urban League, said, "In the wake of several deadly mass shootings, Governor Cuomo is taking action against gun violence and protecting New Yorkers. While the federal government ignores this real and dangerous threat with purposeful inaction, New York is leading the way forward with the nation's strongest gun laws to help save lives. We commend the Governor for making this issue a top priority and putting the safety of New Yorkers first."

Linda Beigel Schulman, Mother of Parkland Victim Scott Beigel, said, "When life after life is lost to gun violence, the country doesn't look to Washington for answers - it looks to New York. New York is constantly at the forefront, from the toughest gun laws in the country to this new legislation aimed at classifying domestic terrorism. We applaud Governor Cuomo and his administration for being proactive in the face of constant threats, doing what those in our nation's capital have been reluctant to do thus far."

David Kilmnick, PhD, President & Chief Executive Officer, LGBT Network said, "For too long leaders in Washington have stood idly by while white nationalism, hate crimes and mass shootings have spread like wildfire throughout our country. Here in New York, we are grateful to have a Governor who stands up against bigotry in all forms and clearly states that there is no room for hate in New York State. I thank the Governor for his continued efforts that have made New York a beacon of hope for all."

Deidre L. Hay, President of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY), said, "The Women's Bar Association of the State of New York is shocked and saddened, as is the rest of our nation, by the mass shooting epidemic in the United States. We extend our condolences to the families of those lost and to those injured in these senseless acts of violence. The impact on victims and their families is not going unnoticed by our membership, nor is the growing body of evidence demonstrating a link between a history of domestic violence and those committing this form of mass terror. The unjustifiable loss of human lives and suffering must compel us to seek solutions. Policymakers must act to prevent future mass shootings. We encourage policy advocates to develop and recommend regulatory and statutory reforms, while still protecting rights embodied in the United States Constitution. WBASNY remains committed to reviewing any proposed legislation on this issue, keeping in mind our roles as jurists and our mission to protect the rights of women and children while striving toward justice. According to the gun violence archive, the mass shootings in 2019 have left 520 people dead and at least 2,000 injured - those numbers do not reflect the magnitude of grief and destruction on the victims' families and within society. This issue can no longer be ignored. We thank Governor Cuomo for taking the lead in initiating this difficult yet necessary dialogue with today's event. WBASNY looks forward to working with the Governor to address the mass shooting epidemic with viable solutions moving forward."

Michael Schmidt, AJC NY Director, said, “AJC NY strongly denounces the rise of hate in our public sphere. This hate, paired with access to assault weapons is allowing for devastating acts of domestic terrorism. Changes to our laws are urgently required and we thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and for offering a first of its kind statewide domestic terrorism act, and encouraging national adoption of the NYS SAFE Act and comprehensive gun control reform.”


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