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Last weekend, American-born radical Islamist and self-proclaimed ISIS loyalist Omar Mateen entered Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida and opened fire. It was three long, harrowing hours before law enforcement officials were finally able to storm the night club and end the gunman’s reign of terror. By the time the ordeal had finally drawn to a close, 49 American men and women were dead and 53 more were badly injured. It was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil, second only to 9/11.

The temptation to let this atrocity divide us once again—to point fingers and lay blame and resort to the same tired talking points that keep us in the past—has been strong. But we have to resist that urge. In times like these, we have to remember that it’s unity, not division, that will help us overcome.

What we’ve been through during this last week—our grief as a nation—should serve as a reminder that we are at a civilizational cross-roads. On the one hand, there is the American way of life. “E pluribus Unum,” our national motto says. “Out of many, one.” We celebrate our differences. We disagree and yet come together and support one another in spite of those disagreements. We believe in the elevation, not the suppression, of individual liberties. We believe in an open society. Terrorists do not. They don’t believe in individual liberty or democracy. They believe, instead, in forced adherence to a badly twisted religious doctrine at the penalty of death.

We can defeat that deranged way of thinking that radical Islamists like Omar Mateen insist upon, but in order to do it, we have to defeat terrorism wherever it exists. That won’t be an easy task, but it’s an absolutely critical one. And it’s why I’ve authored and supported a number of measures in the House to make our fight against terrorism winnable.

As our world has evolved, so too have the tactics that terrorists are willing to use in order to recruit and radicalize Americans and other Westerners. To hamper recruitment and radicalization, I introduced the International Conflicts of Concern Act (H.R. 1929). This legislation would prohibit unauthorized personnel from traveling or distributing material support to entities engaged in armed conflict within those countries designated as countries of conflict concern. The bill would automatically designate Syria as a country of conflict concern for a one-year period. Perpetrators would be subject to both civil and criminal penalties including up to a 20-year term in prison. This legislation would still allow for legitimate travel by licensed humanitarian aid workers and other groups with the necessary level of clearance.

I also had the opportunity to support Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act (H.R. 547) to help improve anti-terrorism intelligence and surveillance efforts here at home. This legislation would authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide training for personnel to counter violent extremism, identify and report suspicious activities, and increase awareness of terrorism threats. Further, it would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to take into account public testimonials from former violent extremists and/or their colleagues in formulating a plan to undermine recruitment efforts by terrorists and terrorist organizations. That’s vital if we are to effectively and efficiently defeat terrorist recruitment.

We have a long road ahead, but the time for us to start taking the threat that terrorism poses to Americans and to people all over the world seriously has passed. This is a problem we have to deal with now, and I am intent on doing everything in my power to make sure that we have a comprehensive strategy to address and eliminate threats to our peaceful and open society here in the United States. 


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