FACT CHECK: Did Terrorist Groups Target Dianne Feinstein?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

During President Donald Trump’s meeting with lawmakers on gun control Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein claimed that she was a victim of terrorism.

Verdict: True

Left-wing terrorist groups planted a bomb outside Feinstein’s San Francisco home and shot out the windows of her vacation house while she was a city elected official in the 1970s.

Fact Check:

Feinstein mentioned the attacks while explaining her familiarity with firearms. “I became mayor of San Francisco as the product of assassination. I’ve been the victim of terrorist groups. The department gave me a weapon, they taught me how to shoot it,” she said.

A bomb was placed in a window flower box at Feinstein’s home in 1976 while she was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She recalled that her husband was sick and her daughter was in a bedroom above the street. The bomb was set to detonate in the middle of the night. It would have quickly set fire to the house, but the bomb did not go off because of an unusual drop in temperature that froze the explosive and broke the detonator. Her daughter found the bomb the next morning.

The New World Liberation Front (NWLF), a small far-left terrorist group, was thought to be behind the attempted attack. The group was inspired by Brazilian revolutionary Carlos Marighella, who advocated using guerrilla tactics in urban environments to incite revolution. NWLF and other underground groups claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings in the Bay Area in the 1970s.

A few months after the bomb incident, eco-terrorist group Environmental Life Force shot out the windows in Feinstein’s vacation home. The group sent a communique to a Berkeley radio station explaining that the attack was in support of the NWLF’s demands for more health care funding in San Francisco jails.

“The symbolic act of shooting holes in your windows with a BB gun, clearly indicates your vulnerability,” the group said of Feinstein. She was not at the house at the time of the attack.

After the attacks, Feinstein learned to shoot, got a concealed carry permit and started carrying a .38 handgun. “I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me,” she said at a 1995 Senate hearing on terrorism after the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Although she used a handgun for self-protection, Feinstein later led the charge to ban pistols while she was mayor of San Francisco. When the ban passed, she surrendered her handgun during a public ceremony.

Feinstein became mayor of the city in 1978 after a fellow politician shot Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. “I found my assassinated colleague [Milk] and put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse,” she said during a Senate debate in 1993. After that experience, she said, she knew “what firearms can do.”

Feinstein said at the 1995 hearing that because of her personal experiences, she understands the urge to carry a firearm for protection. But “that was a period of time ago, and I’ve watched through these 20 years as terrorism has increased both on the far extremist left and the far extremist right in this country,” she said.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, Feinstein sponsored legislation to ban assault-style weapons and expand background checks to private sales, but the bill did not pass in the Senate.

Trump expressed support for some of Feinstein’s proposed gun control measures during the meeting with other lawmakers. Feinstein and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced legislation Wednesday to raise the minimum legal age to buy assault-style weapons from 18 to 21. Feinstein could not contain her excitement when Trump suggested adding her ideas to another bill.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter