Julián Castro’s 'People First' Plan to Disarm Hate: Combating White Nationalism and the Gun Violence Epidemic
Julián Castro for President 2020
On Friday, August 9, presidential candidate, former Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julián Castro, introduced via Medium his 'People First' Plan to Disarm Hate, a wide ranging effort to prioritize white supremacist terrorism and enact urgent gun safety reforms. His plan proposes investments to prevent domestic terrorism and educational programs to bridge cultural divides, enacting strict universal background checks and closing NRA loopholes, banning assault weapons, starting a national gun buyback program, expanding access to mental health care and trauma recovery, and investing in community-driven violence prevention initiatives.
“White supremacist terrorism is a threat to our safety made more deadly by easy access to guns,” said Secretary Castro. “The horrific tragedy in El Paso was not an isolated incident. White nationalism is on the rise and the gun violence epidemic is a national crisis. Our time to act is now.”
Following the release of his People First plan to Disarm Hate, Secretary Castro will deliver remarks at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair and later speak at the Democratic Wing Ding.
On Saturday, August 10th, Secretary Castro will participate in the Urgent Gun Safety Presidential Forum in Des Moines hosted by Everytown For Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, organized in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
Throughout this trip, Secretary Castro will be joined by his wife, Erica Lira Castro, and their children, Carina (age 10) and Cristián (age 4).
Secretary Castro’s second debate performance last week in Detroit was noted as a “standout” and “strong” performance by two national news outlets, with CNN pointing out “two times is a trend.” Among a CNN panel of nine Iowa voters, three picked Secretary Castro as having the best debate. He followed up the debate with an endorsement from the national political organization Latino Victory Fund, and endorsements by 11 Nevada political leaders including an automatic delegate during a trip to that state.
Secretary Castro’s People First plan to Disarm Hate follows several platforms released on immigration, education, housing, lead exposure, policing reform, and Indigenous communities — all of which have received wide acclaim by policy experts, advocates, journalists, and voters. Secretary Castro has established himself as a leader in the field on both the breadth and depth of policy proposals released by 2020 candidates.
Secretary Castro’s People First Plan to Disarm Hate: Combating White Nationalism and the Gun Violence Epidemic can be viewed here and below.
People First Plan to Disarm Hate: Combating White Nationalism and the Gun Violence Epidemic
“How do you stop these people?” President Trump asked at a campaign rally, soliciting ideas to stop migrants seeking asylum at the border. “Shoot them!” one man yelled. Trump smiled.
A few weeks later, a young man motivated by white nationalism drove over 600 miles to the border city of El Paso, Texas where he is accused of shooting and killing 22 innocent people.
“This attack was a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” the confessed shooter wrote online, echoing Trump’s racist rhetoric calling immigrants “rapists” and fear mongering about “invaders.” This was the largest anti-Latino massacre in modern U.S. history and is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.
This horrific tragedy is not an isolated incident. White nationalism is on the rise while military-grade firearms are more easily available than ever.
The gun violence epidemic is devastating families and communities in big cities and small towns, and an entire generation is growing up afraid for their safety no matter where they live.
Whether in a school, a movie theater, or a shopping mall, weak gun laws are enabling mass violence. Students in Newtown, Parkland, and Santa Barbara; people of faith in Pittsburgh, Sutherland Springs and Charleston; people out for a night in Orlando, Las Vegas and Dayton -- they should all still be with us. That’s why we need to take immediate action to disarm hate.
As a candidate for president, this issue is not only political, it’s personal. My wife Erica, an educator, and I are raising a daughter and son who both have brown skin. We worry for them and their friends. They should be able to grow up free from fear of hate and safe from gun violence. Their safety is our foremost responsibility.
The toxic brew of guns and hate taking place in the U.S. is a significant threat, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As FBI Director Wray testified to Congress, “the majority of the domestic terrorism cases [the FBI has] investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” President Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary McAleenan said, "white supremacist extremist violence" is a "huge issue" and an "increasingly concerning threat." Over the past decade, 56 percent of extremist murders were by people with white supremacist ideology.
White supremacy is not only an ideology of America’s past, it is one that persists today. Building a more inclusive society must start with condemning white supremacy.
My plan to disarm hate starts with comprehensively identifying the threat of white supremacist terrorism and combating it directly with a coordinated federal response. We’ll also invest in programs to fight radicalization and educational opportunities to bridge racial and cultural divides, and lead a global coalition to defeat this rising tide of white nationalism.
Our nation’s weak gun laws enable violent extremism. The United States is the only advanced nation in the world where mass shootings occur on a daily basis. One hundred people are killed by guns every single day on average -- almost 40,000 per year. An epidemic of gun violence is disproportionately affecting people and communities of color, inflicting trauma and pain on the most disadvantaged among us. While every nation has video games, mental illnesses, and violent crime, we are the only nation with more guns than people. We are fewer than five percent of the world’s population, but we account for 35 percent of all homicides and 45 percent of firearms in the world. Violent crime in America is more deadly because of easy access to guns. But we know how to address this challenge. What we lack is the political courage to act, and Mitch McConnell, the NRA, and the filibuster will not stand in our way.
Common sense gun safety laws save lives. We need universal background checks without NRA loopholes to keep guns out of the wrong hands. We need a renewed assault weapons ban and strict limits on high-capacity magazines to reduce gun fatalities. We should invest in a gun buyback program to decrease the number of guns on the streets. We need to institute Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws and invest in community-driven violence prevention programs. And yes, we need a federal licensing program to buy and own a gun that includes fingerprints, a law enforcement interview, and a gun safety course. These are smart, reasonable reforms that improve safety for everyone, including police officers.
Now is our moment to decide what kind of country we want to be. We can be paralyzed by fear of extremism and cower before the corporate gun lobby, or we can combat white supremacist terrorism directly and end the gun violence epidemic that has plagued our nation for too long. There is a movement in America to change our gun safety laws and fight for our future. Our time to act is now.
Action to Combat Hate and Domestic Terrorism
1. Rebalance domestic terrorism investigations and enforcement to ensure they are focused on the most urgent threats. In 2019, most of the domestic terrorism arrests by the FBI have been related to white supremacist terrorism. This is a clear and present threat to our collective security.
- Ensure that authorities can recognize signs of extremism through a progressive police reform platform that addresses racial disparities in policing, modernize fusion centers to focus on engagement over surveillance, and reform policing to build trust between communities and law enforcement.. The Trump administration has demonstrated it does not take hate and domestic terrorism seriously. He has retooled existing programs to focus on Muslim, black, LGBTQ, immigrant, and refugee communities rather than recognize the rising threat of white supremacist terrorism.#
2. Invest in programs to combat hate and domestic terrorism. The Trump administration has demonstrated it does not take hate and domestic terrorism seriously. He has retooled existing programs to focus on Muslim, black, LGBTQ, immigrant, and refugee communities rather than recognize the rising threat of white supremacist terrorism.
- Establish a White House Initiative on Disarming Hate to coordinate programs between the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Education, Health and Human Services, State, the intelligence community and other agencies with dedicated funding of at least $100 million a year and staff for a composite approach that centers civil liberties, privacy, transparency, and positive outreach to communities.
- Convene an annual summit hosted by the president to bring together community leaders, activists, the technology industry, media, and others to develop community-based solutions and best practices to counter hateful ideologies that incite violence.
- Invest in healing through grant programs from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to rehabilitate members of extremist organizations and bridge racial divides.
- Require state, local, and tribal governments to report hate crime statistics through the National Incident-Based Reporting System, ensure these governments have access to the database, and provide grants to establish hotlines to collect data.
3. Exercise global leadership by coordinating with partner countries, civil liberty advocates, and internet platforms to address the spread of violent extremism on the internet. The United States is not the only country to confront white supremacist terrorism. The incidents in Norway and New Zealand indicate a global challenge where extremists communicate and consume the same content online.
- Join international partners in jointly addressing extremist content on the internet, committing to the Christchurch Call, an international agreement to combat the spread of violent extremism the Trump administration refused to join, ensuring the United States leads on protecting the freedom of expression.
- Invest an additional $50 million a year into the Department of State programs to support international coordination to disrupt these networks of violent extremism, recognizing the international networks of communication that contribute to hate speech and domestic terrorism in the United States.
Action to End the Gun Violence Epidemic
1. Immediate Executive Action. On day one as president, I will sign executive orders to end the gun violence epidemic. The American people have waited far too long for meaningful, common sense reforms on gun safety.
- End the Firearm Dealer Licensing Loophole. Fix ambiguity in requirements to obtain a firearms dealer license, which would require background checks for all sales, by considering whether an individual:
- sells more than five firearms in a year,
- sells firearms outside close family members, or
- regularly sells firearms without going through a licensed dealer that conducts a required background check.
- Direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to include unmarried domestic partners under the protections of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
- Direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to deny gun sales to individuals with a warrant out for their arrest, reversing Trump Administration rule change.
- Institute an immediate ban on the import of assault weapons.
2. Implement universal background checks and close NRA loopholes. We must change our laws to ensure dangerous individuals cannot buy a gun. Mitch McConnell is blocking common sense background checks right now in the U.S. Senate.
- Close the “Charleston” Loophole. End the “default proceed” rule that allows the sale of a firearm if the FBI does not complete a check within the allotted time.
- Close the “Private Sale” Loophole. All firearm sales, whether online, at a gun show or directly, must go through a licensed dealer, manufacturer, or importer that performs a background check.
- Close the “Boyfriend” Loophole. Prevent people from purchasing or owning firearms if in a dating relationship and subject to a protective order or convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- Reauthorize VAWA to ensure all victims of domestic violence are protected and that state, local, and tribal law enforcement are notified when an individual subject to a court order for domestic violence attempts to buy a firearm and requires a background check
- Require a minimum waiting period of 7 days before the sale of a firearm.
- Prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking or hate crimes from possessing or purchasing a firearm.
3. Renew a permanent assault weapons ban. Weapons of war do not belong in the communities of America. These firearms were designed with the singular purpose of inflicting mass human casualties.
- Require registration of assault weapons already owned by individuals under the National Firearms Act.
- Establish a buyback program through an Assault Weapons Reduction Trust Fund to purchase firearms including assault weapons and banned high capacity magazines to ensure 2021 is the high-water mark of weapons of war on American streets.
4. Require a license to purchase firearms. This policy will ensure gun buyers have passed a background check before they own a gun, which research suggests leads to fewer gun homicides and suicides.
- Establish a federal firearm licensing program through the ATF that requires registering fingerprints, an FBI background check and law enforcement interview, and the completion of a federally certified gun safety course, before allowing an individual to purchase and own firearms.
5. Reform ammunition laws. In Dayton, the gunman fired 41 shots in 30 seconds and killed 9 individuals. Even though the police arrived within minutes, the shooter was able to kill too many because of high capacity magazines that can hold dozens of rounds. The shooter in Las Vegas fired over 1,100 rounds of ammunition into a crowd of concert-goers, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.
- Ban high capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
- Require a firearms license to purchase ammunition, require handgun ammunition to have serial numbers to aid law enforcement investigations, and strengthen enforcement of the ban on armor piercing ammunition.
6. Invest in community-driven violence prevention programs, research into gun violence, and data collection. The gun violence epidemic is a public health issue that requires research, evidence-based solutions, and action led by communities affected by gun violence. Because of NRA-backed laws, the United States is unable to research gun violence as a public health issue or effectively collect data to inform policy and research.
- Enable the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence as a public health issue by repealing the Dickey Amendment and investing at least $50 million a year into research.
- Raise the excise tax on firearms and ammunition to 20% from 10%, using new revenue for evidence-based, community-driven gun violence prevention programs.
- Enable the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to manage a centralized, digitized, and disaggregated database of firearm sales accessible to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and repeal riders that prevent ATF from collecting and managing data on gun violence in the United States.
7. Hold gun manufacturers accountable. Civil liability is an important legal tool for gun violence victims to pursue justice and hold gun sellers and manufacturers responsible for their products.
- Repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a bill passed in 2005 that provides civil immunity for gun manufacturers from the consequences of firearms they produce.
- Amend gun manufacturing licensing laws to include the manufacture of 3-D printed firearms, including unfinished and untraceable firearms.
8. Support safety measures to prevent accidental harm, unauthorized access to firearms, and safeguard schools and universities. Each year, thousands of people are injured because of unintentional discharges, many of whom are children. Current federal law exempts firearms from consumer safety standards that reduce unintentional deaths, and we need laws to store firearms securely.
- Extend consumer oversight of firearms to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require design safety standards, including tests and mechanisms like magazine disconnect mechanisms and load indicators.
- Support firearm storage requirements for firearms through federal requirements and grants to state and tribal governments to keep firearms out of the hands of minors and other unauthorized users.
- Protect students in schools and universities from gun violence by repealing Trump administration policies that promote arming educators and by opposing campus carry laws that require colleges and universities to permit firearms on campus.
9. Invest in mental healthcare to combat suicides, and support for victims of gun violence, including post-trauma recovery. Too often, mental health is blamed for gun violence in an effort to deflect from the need for real reform. This ignores the real impact of mental health on gun violence: easy access to firearms contributes to too many lives lost to suicide and too many lives harmed by trauma from gun violence. Over 60 percent of gun deaths in the United States are the result of suicide, and we have failed to prioritize mental health care.
- Combat suicides through strengthening mental health services under Medicare, including by expanding access to psychological professionals, marriage counseling, and family therapist services, expanding the use of Lethal Means Safety Counseling to allow physicians identify and help patients that may be at risk of suicide, and ensure all Americans have access to Medicare and comprehensive mental health coverage.
- Strengthen the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime that provides assistance for victims of gun violence, including support for mental health services, and ensure this assistance does not discriminate against marginalized communities or based on immigration status.
10. Institute Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws. Empower families, household members, and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from an individual at risk of harming themselves or others by supporting state governments with grants to implement and enforce these laws.
About Secretary Julián Castro
Julián Castro served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama from 2014-2017. Before that, he was Mayor of his native San Antonio, Texas — the youngest mayor of a Top 50 American city at the time.
In 2012, he gave a rousing keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, during which he described the American Dream as a relay to be passed from generation to generation. In 2018, Castro founded Opportunity First, an organization to invest in the next generation of progressive leaders. In October 2018, Little, Brown published Castro’s memoir, An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up from My American Dream. On January 12, 2019, Secretary Castro announced his candidacy for President of the United States.