WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt on Sunday night to discuss the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio and the challenges posed by domestic terrorism and white nationalism.

“It's been a really striking weekend,” said Senator Coons. “The idea that we've had, in two different incidents, so far apart in our country, but so tragically close in their circumstances, 29 killed, 50 or so injured, and as you've just described in detail in the last segment. It's clear that the motivations of the El Paso shooter were racist and were violent and were intent on causing as much carnage as possible. There are things we can and should do.”

“We have a challenge with domestic terrorism from folks who are motivated by bigotry and racial hatred,” said Senator Coons. “We also have ongoing concerns about extremism of other kinds. And the challenge we were trying to address in that oversight hearing was making sure that we are dedicating an appropriate amount of law enforcement resources to investigating, interrupting, blocking, stopping act of terrorism in the United States, and being clear eyed about ways in which rhetoric nationally, by the President and others, can encourage or give a sense of support for folks who are motivated to commit acts of extremism.”

Video and audio available here

Excerpts from the interview are below:

Senator Coons on action the Senate could take right now to prevent gun violence: It's been a really striking weekend. The idea that we've had, in two different incidents, so far apart in our country, but so tragically close in their circumstances, 29 killed, 50 or so injured, and as you've just talked described in detail in the last segment. It's clear that the motivations of the El Paso shooter were racist and were violent and were intent on causing as much carnage as possible. There are things we can and should do. We should go back into session in the Senate. First, let me remind you, that the House passed a bipartisan enhanced background check bill 150 days ago and sent it over to the Senate. It has been sitting, waiting for action on the Senate floor. All Mitch McConnell has to do is call it up for a vote. I also am the co-sponsor of a bill with Senator Pat Toomey, who you just had on in a clip from the Parkland debate, that would provide notification to local law enforcement when someone who is prohibited from owning a weapon goes into a federally registered firearm dealer, tries to buy-- they lie and try-- so they check the box on the background check form that says, nope, I'm allowed to buy this, they run it through the NICS system, the National Background Check System, come back and say, actually, you're prohibited. Right now, in more than 30 states, including my home state of Delaware, nothing happens with that information. In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey's home state, state police are notified and they arrested several hundred people last year for committing that crime of lying and trying to buy a weapon. It is an excellent predictor that someone is then going to go try and get a gun either through a straw purchaser or through the gun show loophole or by stealing it, so this strikes me as simple, common sense bipartisan legislation we should be able to pass. The Chairman of the Judiciary has committed to passing it. We also recently have a strong hearing on extreme risk protection orders, on ways in which we could identify circumstances such as happened in Parkland, Florida, where a deranged individual is clearly intent on using violence and owns a weapon that would allow for an expedited process. There are things we can do. We have to do more than express our concern and talk about thoughts and prayers. 

Senator Coons on Majority Leader McConnell’s refusal to take up gun control legislation passed in the House: Let’s be clear again: The House has taken up and passed several pieces of legislation that would address these challenges we have with gun violence. And we have had hearings in Senate Judiciary Committee. The challenge is the Republican Majority Leader and his refusal to give time on the floor for there to be a vote. The challenge is that we have a Republican majority in the Senate, just to be blunt about it, that has not stepped forward and taken action on a number of different bills that really could help address the problem we have in the United States of gun laws not being thoroughly enforced and of guns getting in the hands of the wrong people. That's why there aren't laws being passed. President Trump, in the clip that you just played right after Parkland, saying he would be willing to sign legislation, but has backed off of that position. I think we ought to call the question. We ought to come back into session and make it clear who's willing to take action, and who isn't. I think that Majority Leader McConnell has refused to take up responsible, bipartisan legislation that would deal with emergency risk protection order or deal with high capacity magazines or with banning weapons of war from the streets of our cities or would deal with enhanced background checks. Senator Toomey made a determined effort with Senator Manchin of West Virginia a number of years ago to try to pass enhanced background checks and was unsuccessful, largely because the Majority Leader was unwilling to give it time on the floor of the Senate. That's where responsibility for this lies. 

Senator Coons on the importance of addressing domestic terrorism and white nationalism: I think that we should, all of us in Congress, be recognizing that we have a real challenge in our country with domestic terrorism and white nationalism. We had a recent oversight hearing on the Judiciary Committee. FBI Director Chris Wray, who was nominated by President Trump, confirmed by the Senate, spoke directly about the real challenge we have in our country. We have a challenge with domestic terrorism from folks who are motivated by bigotry and racial hatred. We also have ongoing concerns about extremism of other kinds. And the challenge we were trying to address in that Oversight hearing was making sure that we are dedicating an appropriate amount of law enforcement resources to investigating, interrupting, blocking, stopping act of terrorism in the United States, and being clear eyed about ways in which rhetoric nationally, by the President and others, can encourage or give a sense of support for folks who are motivated to commit acts of extremism. Obviously, the President is not directly responsible for the individual in El Paso. You can't really ascribe the motivation of a deranged individual to specific things said by the President, but I will say that I agree that the President's rhetoric contributes to a national environment that encourages this sort of hatred.

 

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