Senator to Introduce Legislation That Would Keep Guns out of the Hands of Those Convicted of Hate Crimes

Sen. Bob Casey introduces a new bill aimed at preventing people convicted of a hate crime from being able to buy a gun. Photo by Nicole Fallert/90.5 WESA

Sen. Bob Casey introduces a new bill aimed at preventing people convicted of a hate crime from being able to buy a gun. Photo by Nicole Fallert/90.5 WESA

In the wake of a mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a Pennsylvania senator is pushing for legislation that would keep firearms out of the hands of those convicted of hate crimes.

According to CBS News, Sen. Bob Casey’s Hate Crime Prevention Act would prohibit the sale and ownership of firearms to those found guilty of committing a hate crime and for those who’ve received a hate crime sentence enhancement. Under Casey’s legislation, those “reasonably suspected” of committing a hate crime would also be banned from purchasing a gun.

“If you have proven you will commit criminal acts based on hate, you absolutely should not have access to a gun. It’s common sense,” Senator Casey said at a press conference Monday. “It is time we as members of Congress do something. If you are a member of Congress and you say you care about security, then you have to take steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands and ensure our law enforcement has the resources needed to keep communities safe.”

Per a press release from the senator’s office, Casey’s plan also calls for a ban on military-style weapons, limits on clips and magazine sizes, universal background checks, and a restriction on those on the terrorist watch list from buying firearms.

“Crimes targeting people for what they look like, how they worship or where they come from deprive victims of their basic rights as human beings and as citizens of the United States,” the release states. “We must keep guns away from extremists who seek to poison our communities with fear and hate.”

So far, Casey’s proposed legislation has received support from fellow Democratic Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Tammy Baldwin, CBS News reports. Casey spokesman John Rizzo said the Pennsylvania senator is working to bargain with the Republican-controlled Congress to get the billed passed.

Casey’s suggested legislation couldn’t have come at a better time, as the occurrence of hate crimes has spiked in recent years. A news release from the senator’s office cites hate crime statistics from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which states that “892 hate groups are currently operating in the United States, up 14 percent since 2014 and almost 33 percent since 2000.”

The SPLC’s findings also points out that African-Americans are disproportionately targeted, as there are nearly 190 Ku Klux Klan chapters actively operating across the U.S. The infamous hate group, organized in 1865, has a long history of terrorizing Black Americans with violence.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific hate crime that occurred at Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Professed white supremacist Dylan Roof shot and killed nine Black parishioners attending Bible study on the evening of June 17, 2015.

In addition to the increased prevalence of hate groups, the percentage of hate crimes involving violence jumped from 78 percent in 2004 to 90 percent in 2012, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Though Casey admits his proposed bill might not have stopped the massacre in Orlando, his Hate Crimes Prevention Act could be a step in the right direction to prevent future hate crimes and gun violence in America.

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