A Terrifying Combination

Between 2010 and 2014, 43,000 hate crimes involved guns.

Between 2010 And 2014, 43,000 Hate Crimes Involved Guns

Massacres like the shootings at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek highlight the ugly reality of mass shootings motivated by bias or hate in America. The use of guns in hate crimes—which appears to be on the rise—threatens, intimidates, and terrorizes not only individual victims, but entire historically vulnerable communities with a message of fear and hatred.

From Oak Creek to Charleston, there has been an increase in hate motivated shootings in recent years. The role guns play in hate crimes is staggering: Between 2010 and 2014, roughly 43,000 hate crimes involved guns, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. CAP’s report, which analyzed five years of federal data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), found that the problem of hate-motivated individuals terrorizing communities with guns isn’t limited to high-profile cases like the massacres in Oak Creek and Charleston. Hate-motivated criminals and violent extremists often use guns as a tool to threaten and intimidate members of historically marginalized and vulnerable communities, which can inflict substantial damage on the targeted community even if a trigger is never pulled.

But under federal law and most state laws, individuals who have been convicted of hate crimes remain free to buy and possess guns. In fact, only six states currently prohibit individuals convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from buying a gun. And easy access to firearms enables hate-motivated criminals to commit crimes: An Indiana State University study found that since 2001, lone wolf terrorists have increasingly turned to high-power guns to carry out their attacks. And nearly 60 percent of all domestic terror attacks that occurred between April 2009 and February 2015 were carried out using a gun. Keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who commit hate crimes is crucial to ensuring the safety of groups who have historically been targeted because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

There are commonsense steps lawmakers can take to help keep guns out of dangerous hands. CAP’s report offers one idea: legislation to prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying or possessing guns. This morning, at a panel discussion on the role of guns in hate crimes, Rep. Cicilline (D-RI) announced that he introduced legislation today, HR 4603, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will close the violent hate crimes loophole that permits the sale of firearms to individuals who have been convicted of a hate crime.

BOTTOM LINE: Hate in America becomes deadly when a gun is involved. The link between hate crimes and gun violence is clear, yet under current federal and most state laws hate crime offenders remain free to buy and possess guns. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a commonsense step lawmakers can take to close this dangerous loophole.

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