Saturday, May 14, while families were shopping at a grocery store, a white supremacist  murdered 10 people and injured three more during a shooting in Buffalo, New York. Once again, hate has cast a dark shadow over a place we thought was safe. From Buffalo to Poway, El Paso to Pittsburgh to Charleston, domestic terrorism is a rising threat to all U.S. residents.

Buffalo Supermarket Shooting

Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen visits the scene of the May 14 shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo last week. The gunman drove hours from his home to target a predominantly Black neighborhood. Matt Rourke/Associated Press

We need Sen. Susan Collins to take action to keep families in Maine safe. Sen. Collins should vote “yes” on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act when it comes up for a vote in the Senate this week.

Domestic terrorism is a top security threat, according to the intelligence community, law enforcement and independent organizations like the Anti-Defamation League. Because of this, we strongly reiterate our calls to promptly pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. This legislation marks a significant step in securing our communities from the threat of domestic terrorism and also creates important oversight mechanisms.

In April 2019, it was reported that the Department of Homeland Security disbanded its office to analyze domestic terrorism threats, which it was later alleged to have downplayed. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would remedy these mistakes by codifying into law dedicated offices to address the threat from domestic extremists. The bill would not add new surveillance authority, but it would ensure that the government appropriately prioritizes and combats the threat within existing authorities, cementing the federal government’s stance that domestic terrorism is a serious issue and one that will withstand politics. The bill would also create critical oversight functions, like ensuring transparent reporting from the federal government on the threat and instituting training for law enforcement officials on domestic terrorism threats and also anti-bias training.

The shooter who attacked Buffalo drove hours from his home to target a predominantly Black neighborhood. The shooter’s hate was fueled by conspiracy theories about Black and brown people, immigrants and Jews. He posted a vile manifesto online, writing “I wish all Jews to hell.”

This threat is not hypothetical. These violent extremists are driven to repeat the attacks they have watched live-streamed over the internet and to act out the violent fantasies they write about in chat rooms. We have repeatedly witnessed horrific acts of hate-fueled violence – where we work, learn, play and pray. We know that it will take a whole of society approach to combat this threat, including actions by all levels of government, civil society, faith-based communities, industry and concerned civilians.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act will help government be prepared for this fight. We know what happens when the agencies tasked with keeping our communities safe are not sharing intelligence and are not properly resourcing to the most dire threat. We simply cannot afford continued inaction – communities across the nation are witness to what inaction can allow to fester.

It is long past time for hand-wringing. It is time for action. While Maine, thankfully, has not been the site of an extremist attack, we have our share of hate crimes and bias incidents. And we know too well, that no state is safe or immune. Hate must be combated by strong leadership of our elected officials, by educating our young people and by communities coming together. There is a role for each of us to play in this work, and today we are depending on our elected officials to take the first step.

We are gravely concerned for the safety of our communities if Congress does not act. Sen. Collins, please, vote “yes” on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to keep our families and communities safe.

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