Stopping the Epidemic of White Nationalist Gun Violence

Gov. Jay Inslee’s 10-Point Strategy to Address the Rise of Gun Violence and White Nationalism

The deadly threat posed by white nationalism is by now well-known to federal law enforcement, yet the United States government still lacks a coherent strategy to respond to the threat posed by white nationalist gun violence. The failure to implement such a strategy is made even worse by President Trump’s denial of the threat, and his open signaling that prosecutions of white nationalist violence are unwelcome. Reversing this situation starts with defeating President Trump and reaffirming once again that it is unacceptable for a white nationalist to occupy the Oval Office. Combatting white nationalist violence starts with a president who is willing to call out racism and put the tools of the federal government to work in tracking the scourge of extremist violence. America needs a cohesive approach to address the interrelated epidemics of white nationalism and gun violence - and that starts with presidential leadership.

Even as we take on this challenge, we already know the steps that are necessary to address the common factor that empowers white nationalist murderers, domestic abusers, and others bent on harming themselves or others: a nation awash in firearms that are all too easy for violent and unqualified people to obtain. We can no longer accept the excuses of the gun lobby or its enablers in Congress. That is why Governor Inslee will pursue a gun violence prevention agenda utilizing every power at his disposal as president - including supporting elimination of the legislative filibuster, which enables Mitch McConnell to block any meaningful progress on gun violence prevention.

That’s why Governor Inslee is laying out a 10-point strategy for tackling this problem at its intersection: preventing the increasing prevalence of white nationalism, which is fueled by networks around the country and encouragement from the Oval Office here at home, from easily obtaining firearms and inflicting hate-fueled violence on innocent victims across America. Gun violence is not the only tool available to white nationalists, and hate-inspired mass shootings are not the only gun violence challenge our country faces. But in this unique moment in American history, our country requires a president who will meet this challenge head-on with a strategy that unrelentingly confronts this vile ideology.


Addressing the Rise of White Nationalism

  1. Directing Federal Law Enforcement Resources To Confront White Nationalism
  2. Creating Systems to Identify, Track, and Prosecute White Nationalist Extremists
  3. Expanding International Cooperation to Fight White Nationalism

Addressing the Rise of White Nationalism

As president, Governor Inslee will instruct his attorney general to lead development of a whole-of-government strategy to take on white nationalist extremism at home and abroad, involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the State Department, and more. This effort will include:

1. Directing Federal Law Enforcement Resources To Confront White Nationalism: The Trump Administration has gutted existing federal resources directed towards confronting domestic extremists. President Trump has shuttered or defunded offices and programs within DHS that addressed domestic terrorism as part of their mission, dismantled threat-assessment groups that focused on white supremacists, and eliminated grants for groups like “Life After Hate” that help members of hate groups to turn away from violence and extremism. President Trump’s fundamental lack of seriousness about a threat that is killing Americans even now is a direct threat to our country’s public and national security. As president, Governor Inslee would reinstate and expand federal funding for de-radicalization programs, intervention grants, and investigative resources, consistent with a whole-of-government strategy to confront white supremacy as a distinct and discrete terrorist threat to America. He would also dedicate additional federal law enforcement resources to the task of leading joint federal-state investigations of white nationalist activity, ensuring that federal law enforcement agencies are prioritizing the white nationalist threat appropriately.

2. Creating Systems to Identify, Track, and Prosecute White Nationalist Extremists: Today, the United States fails to provide direct sufficient resources to identify, track, and publicly report on white nationalist activity. The FBI last issued a report on the state of domestic terrorism in 2005, and in the years since, policymakers and the public alike have had to rely on private sources to track the growing scope of the problem. As president, Governor Inslee would reinstate the requirement for an annual public report on the domestic terror threat. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced legislation, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, that lays out a roadmap to do this; Inslee would sign this bill. The Inslee Administration would also strengthen implementation of laws like the Hate Crime Statistics Act, which requires the Department of Justice to compile and report the number of bias crimes but is severely underenforced. The combination of new data sources would help enhance federal prosecution of hate crimes, especially where state laws are weak or non-existent.

3. Expanding International Cooperation to Fight White Nationalism: Taking on white nationalist extremism requires coordination with allies abroad, as well as action at home, to confront what is an international violent, anti-democratic movement. The alleged perpetrator of the El Paso shooting was reportedly encouraged by the March 2019 massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, and international white nationalist networks are helping to fuel attacks here in the United States. Under the Inslee administration, America will expand partnerships with international intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and private businesses like social media corporations, to take a unified and mutually-supportive approach to countering violent extremism.

Addressing the Ease-of-Access to Firearms

4. National Assault Weapons Ban

5. Extreme Risk Protection Orders

6. Disarm Hate

7. Targeting People Who “Lie and Try” to Buy Guns

8. Close the Charleston Loophole

9. Overhaul and Enhance ATF Enforcement

10. Banning Untraceable Firearms

Addressing the Ease-of-Access to Firearms

The federal government has failed for far too long to respond to the gun violence epidemic in this country, and as president, Governor Inslee will take swift action to ensure the nation follows in the footsteps of states like Washington state to have robust, effective firearms laws. Actions will include strengthening the background check system by closing the private sale loophole and other enforcement gaps, as well as addressing gun violence as a public health challenge by investing millions in federal gun violence prevention research. Governor Inslee also supports creating a system of licensing and training requirements for firearm possession, which have had a demonstrated impact on gun violence rates in states where these requirements exist, such as Connecticut. Washington state voters recently added a training requirement to state law, requiring that eligible purchasers of semi-automatic rifles demonstrate completion of an accredited safety course in addition to passing required background checks.

Commonsense gun violence prevention measures are also an essential part of preventing white nationalist extremists from inflicting violence against the targets of their hate. That’s why, Governor Inslee’s strategy to address the intersection between white nationalism and gun violence includes:

4. National Assault Weapons Ban: As president, Governor Inslee will reinstate a national assault weapons ban, as well as a ban on high-capacity magazines. These high-powered weapons greatly amplify the carnage that can be caused by an assailant determined to take as many lives as possible. The perpetrator of the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting, armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines, was able to kill nine people and wound twenty-seven in less than 30 seconds.  In 1994, Governor Inslee cast a critical vote in favor of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban while representing a rural, conservative district in Washington state.  That vote cost then-Representative Inslee his seat, but it was the right vote then, and it remains the right step for Congress to take today. 

5. Extreme Risk Protection Orders: Perpetrators of mass shootings often demonstrate warning signs of their intentions, yet all too often, law enforcement and families lack the tools prevent tragedy. As president, Governor Inslee will advance a national Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law, modeled after those passed in Washington state, Oregon, and 15 other states as well as the District of Columbia. These laws allow police, family members, and household members to petition for firearms to be temporarily removed from people threatening to harm themselves or others. A federal ERPO law would open federal courts to petitions by law enforcement and families to have access to firearm rights temporarily removed, and would also provide grant assistance to states to implement protection order laws, reflecting the essential role of local, regional, tribal, and state law enforcement in tackling this challenge. Governor Inslee signed state legislation in 2019 that ensures hate crimes are a factor that can be considered in whether or not to grant an order, making Washington state’s the first hate-specific ERPO law in America.

6. Disarm Hate: Hate crimes are on the rise in America under President Trump, and 97% of hate crimes reported to have occurred in 2017 were driven by racial, religious, or anti-LGBTQ bias. Indeed, 2017 was the deadliest year of hate-fueled violence against the LGBTQ community, particularly the transgender community, and anti-Jewish attacks jumped over 37% from 2016-2017. But under federal and many state laws, only felony hate crime convictions prohibit someone from possessing or purchasing a firearm, while misdemeanor hate crimes convictions do not. It’s time for Congress to close this gap by adding misdemeanor hate crimes to the list of federal prohibiting factors that prevent someone from possessing or purchasing a firearm. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) have proposed legislation to do just that, the “Disarm Hate Act,” and Inslee would sign the bill into law as president.

7. Targeting People Who “Lie And Try” to Buy Guns: In 2017, 112,000 people nationwide who are ineligible to possess firearms attempted to buy one from a licensed firearm dealer. Yet only 12 of those individuals were prosecuted, despite the fact that these attempts to obtain a firearm are illegal and are known to be a “red flag” for future gun crime. In Washington state, Governor Inslee signed legislation giving law enforcement the power to investigate these cases, which was used to launch hundreds of investigations, including ten arrests and two criminal convictions. Washington state’s law also helps address the “boyfriend loophole” in federal law by ensuring victims of domestic violence will receive notification if their abuser tries to illegally purchase a firearm. The Inslee Administration will support Congressional legislation that follows in the footsteps of Washington state, Pennsylvania, and other states to provide notification to state law enforcement when a person who “lies and tries” to buy a firearm is blocked by the federal background check system. The Inslee Administration will also dedicate additional federal law enforcement and prosecutorial resources to this unaddressed threat.

8. Close the Charleston Loophole: In 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof was allowed to obtain a firearm -- despite being legally prohibited from purchasing firearms -- due to the federal “default proceed” rule. Under current federal law, the FBI has only 3 business days to complete a background check. If a federally licensed firearms dealer who has initiated a background check has not been notified that the purchaser is prohibited under state or federal law within three business days, the dealer can decide whether or not to proceed with the sale at his or her discretion. This procedural gap, which has become known as the “Charleston loophole”, made possible the massacre of nine parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina - and has made it possible for thousands of other prohibited purchasers to obtain firearms. The House has passed legislation to address the Charleston loophole by expanding this period to ten days, yet the Senate has failed to act. As president, Inslee will close the Charleston loophole and end the “default proceed” rule.

9. Overhaul and Enhance ATF Enforcement: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) plays a vital role in enforcing America’s firearm laws. But a combination of neglect and sabotage of ATF’s ability to carry out its duties has hobbled the agency and left Americans highly vulnerable to gun violence. Congress has prevented ATF from creating a centralized database of millions of records of firearm sales that it is legally obligated to maintain, which are a vital investigative tool for law enforcement agencies around the country. ATF is also prevented from effectively carrying out its mission of inspecting and regulating licensed firearm dealers around the country; underfunding and poor procedure resulted in less than 20% of licensed dealers being inspected during fiscal year 2018. In Washington state, Governor Inslee signed bipartisan legislation to create a plan to centralize the state’s own background check system. On a national level, Governor Inslee will take executive action and support legislation to modernize ATF’s data management systems and provide the resources necessary to conduct needed inspections.

10. Banning Untraceable Firearms: The Trump Administration has been bound and determined to help pro-gun activists open a new frontier in firearms manufacturing through the production of untraceable “ghost guns,” which can be manufactured without serial numbers and, in some cases, printed from plastic using 3-D printers. The Administration is currently attempting to transition the regulation of exports of these types of weapons from the U.S. State Department, which maintains strict export control regulations, to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This follows the Trump State Department’s decision to agree to allow blueprints for such 3-D printed firearms to be freely distributed online, which would dramatically expand the ease of producing untraceable, undetectable firearms. Governor Inslee signed legislation restricting the production and manufacture of these “ghost guns” in Washington state, and as president, he would immediately end this dangerous and senseless action on the part of the Trump Administration. He would also support legislation codifying into federal law restrictions on exporting plans for these types of weapons, and ensuring America has the same strong standards on these weapons as Washington state does.