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New Bill Would Add Hate Crime Misdemeanor Convictions to Gun Bans

March For Our Lives - Washington, DC. Date: March 24, 2018. (Photo: ep_jhu Flickr)
March For Our Lives - Washington, DC. Date: March 24, 2018. (Photo: ep_jhu Flickr)

“It’s just common sense. If you’ve been convicted of a hate crime, you don’t get to buy a gun. Full stop.”

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Tuesday on a series of new gun violence prevention measures including legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines, incentivize states to set up “red flag” legislation banning individuals in a crisis from accessing guns, and prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from owning guns.

Tuesday’s meeting comes a month after a gunman shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and injured another 24. Even more recently, a man went on a shooting spree as he drove between Midland and Odessa, Texas on August 31st, killing 8 and injuring another 25. Both shootings, once again, revived calls for more gun legislation.

No Vote on Gun Background Checks

Last February, Democrats introduced and passed legislation in the House expanding federal background checks. However, the Senate has yet to vote on the legislation as Senate leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote, claiming he was waiting on feedback from Trump before doing so.

“I said several weeks ago that if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I’d be happy to put it on the floor,” McConnell told conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt last week. “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor.”

As Peter Castagno previously wrote for Citizen Truth, H.R.8, also known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, would close loopholes on online or gun show purchases of firearms that allow gun buyers to evade background checks. H.R.1112 would similarly close loopholes for gun purchase background checks.

McConnell’s refusal to vote on the House bills comes despite a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing that 93 percent of Americans support universal background checks.

Disarm Hate Act

Now a bill called the Disarm Hate Act introduced last May in the House by Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island and is sponsored in the Senate by Bob Casey of Pennsylvania would ban anyone convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from owning guns.

“The Disarm Hate Act closes the Hate Crimes Loophole by prohibiting the sale of firearms to anyone convicted of assaulting someone based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability,” said Cicilline in a statement released by his office.

Hate crimes are considered any crime that purposefully targets an individual based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion, disability or any other social grouping. Hate crimes can be tried in both state and federal courts and be classified as a misdemeanor or felony.

While virtually any crime committed against another person can be categorized as a hate crime, typically hate crimes involve charges for assault, battery, trespassing, stalking and destruction of property. To convict a person of a hate crime a prosecutor must prove the defendant acted with an intent to target their victim based on the victim belonging to a legally protected social grouping.

“A misdemeanor hate crime, which can include menacing or assault, is often a precursor for more severe attacks,” claimed Cicilline in a statement. Thus, the Disarm Hate Act hopes to prevent mass shootings and further gun violence by preventing violent prone individuals already convicted of hate crimes from owning a firearm.

“Over and over again we have seen what happens when a convicted white supremacist, white nationalist, or neo-Nazi is able to purchase a gun,” said Cicilline, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “This bill closes the Hate Crimes Loophole and makes it much harder for someone to give voice to their hatred in a volley of gunfire. It’s just common sense. If you’ve been convicted of a hate crime, you don’t get to buy a gun. Full stop.”

Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.

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