August 15, 2019
Albany, NY

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

TOP Remarks as Prepared: Governor Cuomo Advances...

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


Governor Cuomo: "These are Americans committing mass hate crimes against other Americans and it should be recognized for what it is: domestic terrorism. American citizens not radicalized 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."


Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo 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.


The Governor's remarks as prepared are available below:


Thank you for being here today. I know it's August, during vacation and recess time but as we all know these are no ordinary times. 


We are living a recurring American nightmare. 


The 22 mostly Latino victims in El Paso are the most recent innocents to fall victim to the scourge of hate.


The devastation of these continuing horrific events leaves us grasping for words.


Why? Because there are no words.


And politicians' expressions offering "thoughts and prayers" are now almost insulting when they should be taking action and passing laws.

When we look back on this era, we will see that this has been one of the most polarizing and divisive in our history, a society indelibly scarred by the toxic cocktail of guns and hate.


Sadly, hate is nothing new in our country.


Diversity is in the American DNA and differences can cause fear and hatred. 


Our country bears the scars of the Ku Klux Klan. The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, killing hundreds of African Americans. The Texas Massacre in 1918 when Texas Rangers summarily executed 15 Mexicans.

But we thought that was part of our ugly yesterday, not our reality today and not threatening our tomorrow.


When Abraham Lincoln asked "whether a nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure,'' he was asking the fundamental question that every generation of Americans must answer. It was answered at Gettysburg, it was answered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it was answered on 9/11. And today the American people are calling on us to answer that question once more.


The truth is the flames of hatred have been stoked to a raging fire that threatens to burn down the American house that Lincoln envisioned.

Ironically, hate does not discriminate - we have seen hateful acts against African Americans in Charleston, Jews in Pittsburgh, Muslims in New York, Latinos in El Paso and the LGBTQ community in Orlando.


The Hate is targeted to "others" - other religions, orientations, races, creeds, except this is America - we are all "others" - we are a nation of "others."


But our problem is not hate alone. Hate can pick up a rock or a club and shatter a life, but we are facing the lethal combination of hate and guns. 

The President said after El Paso that mental illness pulls the trigger.  The President says a lot of things.  But, the President knows the obvious truth. If there is no gun, there is no trigger.


His partisan political self-interest has trumped his responsibility to protect the public.


His government has failed the American people.


When I was in Israel 3 weeks ago, I visited Yad Vashem and there was a quote that is all too relevant today, "A country is not just what it does - it is also what it tolerates." 


We must have no tolerance for this rampage of hateful violence.

So, if the Federal government won't act or can't act - New York will.


We must begin by recognizing the crisis for what it is because you will never solve a problem you are unwilling to admit, and today New York State acknowledges the ugly truth - that we have an enemy within, an American cancer, where one cell in the body politic attacks the other cells in the body.


It spreads in the hidden corners of the internet, and from the highest positions in the land, and infects sick and hate-filled hearts.


This new violent epidemic is hate fueled American on American terrorism.

We still treat terrorism as an act committed by foreigners. 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.


And that's why today I propose that New York State pass a national precedent:  a Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act - for any person who kills in a mass attack on the basis of race, religion, creed or sexual orientation.  The penalty should be the same as it is for other terrorist crimes - Up to Life without Parole.

Hate crimes on steroids...mass hate crimesare terrorism, and the punishment should fit the crime.  Period.


As we address the cancer of hate we must also address the instrumentality of the hate, the syringe that injects the cancer into the American body, guns.  Guns in the wrong hands and guns that are extraordinarily dangerous. 


The Federal Government is not impotent on this issue, it is politically paralyzed.


The Federal Government can and has tackled this issue before.


In 1934, to combat gangsterism President Franklin Roosevelt passed legislation to regulate machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.

In 1968, in the wake of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the federal government passed legislation banning mail-order gun sales.


And in 1994, the Clinton Administration enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons and instituted the first system for background checks.


Here in New York we saw the violent future in the bloodshed of the Sandy Hook massacre 6 years ago and we acted. We passed the SAFE Act, the law that the nation still needs to pass today...banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines and universal background checks.

That was 6 years agobefore another 2,458 Americans were killed and before another 9,137 were wounded.


It wasn't easy, it was hard, but it was right.


And all the NRA's fear mongering has been proven false. There was no slippery slope.


In 6 years no one has ever complained to me that they have been denied a gun they were legally entitled to own.


People today ask if El Paso is a tipping point, a moment of change. I say, there is no moment that creates change without leadership. The SAFE Act didn't just happen. The New York Legislature had to choose between the gun lobby and public safety in the aftermath of a horrendous tragedy. It was a tough vote but the Legislature did iton a bipartisan basis.

Washington Democrats must show that they have the leadership to bring that change to the country.  They must expose this President and the Republican Senators as political cowards and lackeys for the gun industry.


This is no time for democratic division or legislative baby steps. Members of the Senate, Congress, and every democratic Presidential candidate should put aside their own personal politics, stand up to the gun lobby, and offer a strong, unified comprehensive gun proposal to end the carnage.


Expose the President's failure of leadership and political pandering by providing a clear alternative. And in turn, give Americans a real choice. 


They will make the right decision.


My friends, we know New York State is at her best when she leads the nation through troubled times, and we do it by reminding Americans what America really means.


We lead by example, by what we do - by passing the best gun law in the nation and now proposing a new terrorism law to combat our new American terrorists - the first in the nation.

We lead by the way we live, 19 million New Yorkers from countries across the globe. Different languages, races, religions, cultures, sexual orientations all forging one community and one people, standing together, believing that when you attack one of us you attack all of us.


That when the orthodox Jewish men were attacked in Brooklyn this week, we were all attacked.


That when swastikas were painted on walls in Ulster County, we were all attacked.


That when the LGBTQ bar in Harlem was attacked, we were all attacked.


That when the Hindu priest was beaten in Floral Park last month, we were all attacked.


That when the Imam in Queens was killed, we were all attacked.


That when the shots were fired in El Paso, they were fired at all of us.


Mr. President, if you want to lead this nation, learn the three words that founded this nation - E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many One. 


Mr. President, stop dividing, start unifying.  And save American lives.


New York will lead the way.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office