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Domestic terrorism lacks federal punishment in U.S.

Police are parked outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., May 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Police are parked outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., May 15.

The U.S. has waged war on global terrorism but there's no federal designation for domestic terror. A new U.S. House bill aims to help federal law enforcement agencies crack down on domestic terrorist activity.

The FBI can label a group as a domestic terrorist organization, but the label has little legal meaning. That's because in the U.S. domestic terrorism isn't a felony.

Soon after an attack targeting Black individuals in Buffalo, New York, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350), which would require the FBI to report on domestic terror threats and allocate resources accordingly. However, the bill would not criminalize domestic terror support or actions as the U.S. does for foreign terror organizations.

One of the reasons the U.S. struggles to act on domestic terror is concerns banning labeled domestic terrorist groups would infringe on the First Amendment, according to Rebecca Best, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who has studied the difference in policing domestic and foreign terror groups.

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