CONSIDERATIONS FOR A DOMESTIC TERRORISM STATUTE
Maguire, Brian P.
Brannan, David W.
Mabry, Tristan J.
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While the crime of international terrorism is clearly defined in U.S. law, the lack of a domestic terrorism charge has broad implications for the government’s actual and perceived ability to respond to acts of domestic violent extremism. The creation of a federal domestic terrorism statute would codify the severity of the threat into enforceable law and allow the government to respond more effectively. Such a statute could directly impact the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens, however, via the monitoring of free speech and association. What then are the potential costs, benefits, and consequences of a domestic terrorism statute in the United States, especially pertaining to First Amendment constitutional rights? A qualitative case study was conducted to focus on three cases of political violence that may be interpreted as domestic terrorism in the United States: the Capitol riot, the Charlottesville attack, and the Pittsburgh synagogue incident. The findings of this study indicate that a statute can also be instrumental in the investigation and prosecution of domestic terrorism incidents by protecting targeted racial groups, preventing abuse of power and authority, increasing penalties, and giving victims and their families the justice they deserve. The main challenge is the argument that a statute would infringe on civil liberties, which could be prevented by having specific provisions about the limits of these civil liberties and a benchmark for inciting terrorism.
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