Beto O’Rourke unveils plan to combat white nationalists after El Paso shooting
White House hopeful Beto O’Rourke on Friday unveiled a sweeping proposal to combat white nationalism that calls for tightening gun laws and making stamping out white supremacy a top priority for federal law enforcement agencies.
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman who is among more than 20 candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also said if he’s elected he’ll move to force social media and tech companies to do more to prevent their platforms from being used to amplify violent invective or potentially be held liable.
The proposal from the congressman comes nearly two weeks after a gunman fueled by anti-immigrant rage opened fire at a Walmart in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, killing 22 and injuring more.
“Congress’ failure to act has resulted in a democracy that is unwilling to confront an epidemic of gun violence,” O’Rourke said. “It’s time for those in positions of public trust to stand up, tell the truth and offer bold solutions without fear of political ramifications so we can finally start making progress and saving lives.”
O’Rourke, who has struggled in recent polls, returned to the campaign trail on Thursday, nearly two weeks after El Paso and the nation was shaken by the Aug. 3 rampage that has ignited a broader conversation about white supremacy and gun violence.
O’Rourke and Trump battle: ‘El Paso will not be quiet’: Trump, Beto O’Rourke clash before presidential visit to El Paso
More: ‘Texas needs you’: Houston Chronicle calls on O’Rourke to end presidential bid, run for Senate
While O’Rourke stepped away from overt campaigning in the days following the shooting rampage, he’s repeatedly lashed out at President Trump, arguing the commander-in-chief was responsible for inciting the El Paso violence through his anti-immigrant rhetoric.
O’Rourke went after the president again on Friday.
“The terrorist attack on El Paso, fueled by the racist rhetoric of Donald Trump, was not only an attack on America, but an attack on the aspirational ideals of this nation,” O’Rourke said.
In his proposal released Friday, O’Rourke says he wants to force social media and internet hosts to be more proactive in thwarting white supremacists from promoting violence.
The former congressman also said he would move to require large internet platforms to bolster terms of service to prevent the spread of violence-inspiring invective. He wants Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act, so that domain name servers and social media platforms could be potentially held liable if they are found to knowingly promote content that incites violence.
The El Paso gunman appeared to have used 8chan, an online messaging board popular with white supremacists and fringe groups, to post an anti-immigrant screed explaining his motivations for carrying out the attack. Cybersecurity company Cloudfare terminated services to 8chan following the shooting.
“Beto is calling on internet hosting companies to follow Cloudfare’s lead to not allow 8chan back online and supports the closure of 8chan, Stormfront and other white nationalist communities housed on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter,” according to a memo distributed to reporters by his campaign.
Cloudfare dumps 8chan: ‘Enough is enough’: Cloudflare terminates 8chan, an online meeting place for ‘extremist hate’
Fallout: Owner of 8chan, online message board favored by El Paso shooter, ordered to appear in court
If elected, O’Rourke said he will identify white nationalism as a threat in counterterrorism strategy and create dedicated domestic terrorism offices within Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers last month that the bureau recorded about 100 arrests of domestic terrorism suspects over the previous nine months.
In May, the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, Michael McGarrity, testified that the bureau was investigating 850 domestic terrorism cases and that, of those, about 40% involved racially motivated violent extremists. Most in that group, he said, involved white supremacists, according to NPR.
O’Rourke, like most of the 2020 Democratic field, also is calling for bolstering of the nation’s gun laws.
More: For 2020 Democrats, hammering on gun control comes with upside: Energized, angry activists
He’s proposing nationwide gun licensing system that would require owners of firearms to renew their licensing every five years.
O’Rourke is also calling for the expansion of background checks, banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and implementing federal red-flag laws that would allow law enforcement “to petition in federal courts to have weapons removed from those who present a danger to themselves or others, including white nationalists planning to perpetrate a hate crime.”