Following the domestic terror attack in a Buffalo supermarket, we are reminded that hatred still has a foothold in this country and in our communities. These senseless acts of violence, motivated by white supremacy, are not the result of an external force. However, it is the direct result of our country’s failure to address hate.
This is a familiar pain for the communities I represent in Maryland. The University of Maryland dedicated a new memorial plaza this week in honor of Lt. Richard Collins III, a Bowie State graduate and ROTC candidate. He was a son, a friend, and a young man with a bright future ahead of him. Lt. Collins was murdered because of the color of his skin.
The factors that led to the senseless killings in Buffalo and the murder of Lt. Collins are well known. Extremism is on the rise as isolated individuals and racists use the internet to spread their lies and toxic ideologies. These young men have been radicalized, indoctrinated, and pushed to commit violent acts. And, all too often, perpetrators, such as the man in Buffalo, are able to commit such atrocities because our permissive and flaw-ridden patchwork of gun laws allows weapons capable of mass murder to fall into the hands of the wrong people.
57 historically Black colleges and universities, as well as houses of worship, have received bomb threats this year. And police departments across the country predict a double-digit increase in hate crimes in 2021, with a 223.7 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, a 58.7 percent increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes, and a 51.3 percent increase in anti-Gay hate crimes.
With guns, this virulent hatred becomes even more lethal. According to Everytown, over 10,300 hate crimes in the United States involve a firearm on an annual basis—more than 28 per day. Too often, black and trans Americans are the targets of these hate-filled attacks.
I am currently introducing legislation in Congress to raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old. Most Americans must wait until they are 21 to legally buy alcohol, rent a car, or gamble. However, under federal law, an 18-year-old can walk into a gun store and purchase a military-style assault weapon, just like the Buffalo teen. Republicans have blocked this bill.
Right now in Congress, I’m preparing to reintroduce legislation to combat extremism in our military. It’s a model that we can use to not only identify when people are heading in the wrong direction, but also to ensure proper intervention before violence occurs. Republicans blocked this legislation last year.
And, after former President Donald Trump ignored and fueled the extreme right’s worst impulses, President Biden can continue to strengthen the Department of Justice’s capabilities to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorists. It should be noted that the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto calling for support for Black communities bears a striking resemblance to the former president’s rants about Baltimore being a “disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess,” despite the money spent there.
Words are important. We need every Republican leader to condemn the hate-filled rhetoric that has permeated cable news, the internet, and the mouths of some of our country’s most powerful people.
We cannot have a country in which Black Americans and people of color live in fear of becoming the next victim of a senseless attack. We cannot accept a reality in which good people can go on a simple errand and be murdered out of hatred. That is not the America I fought for, and it is not a version of America we can accept.
We continue to mourn these tragic events of injustice and stand in solidarity with all those who are grieving. But today, and every day, we must recommit to action.
We will never forget the ten lives lost in Buffalo, the memory of Lt. Collins, and the people who were taken from loved ones far too soon, we cannot ever allow hate to win.