Legislators in California unanimously passed Assembly Bill 785, which would strip gun rights from persons convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes. Backed by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, AB785 passed without a single “no” vote. It now goes to Governor Jerry Brown (D) for signature. 

In a statement, Jones-Sawyer said, “There are too many examples in our country’s recent history, which show what a firearm can do in the hands of people who practice hate.” He added, “The recent incident in Charlottesville, where heavily armed Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists, spewing hatred and inciting violence under the guise of protecting free speech and the right to bear arms, is not what the founding fathers of this great nation were protecting when they drafted our constitution.”

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The Disarm Hate Act is yet another California law that can result in an automatic 10-year prohibition on possessing a firearm for misdemeanor crimes. There are already laws on the books that take away gun rights from those convicted of misdemeanor interference with another person’s civil rights or damage of property because of their perceived race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. 

According to Jones-Sawyer, the states of Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon have laws prohibiting those with misdemeanor hate crime convictions from possessing and acquiring firearms.

The measure has the backing of several gun control organizations, including the Brady Campaign, the Violence Prevention Coalition, the Coalition Against Gun Violence, and Americans for Responsible Solutions.

“The reality of hate-fueled crime is why it’s so important for elected leaders to do everything in their power to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who wish to terrorize and divide our communities,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. Americans for Responsible Solutions was founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. Ambler added, “Governor Brown should sign this bipartisan bill into law and add California’s name to the growing list of states across the country that have taken responsible steps that make it harder for hate crime offenders to access guns.”

Giffords was shot and severely wounded by a deranged man in Arizona in 2011. Six persons were killed. 

Brown has not yet said whether he will sign the bill. Previously, Brown has vetoed expansions to the 10-year ban in 2016 and 2013. He argued that convictions would add to the already overcrowded state prisons.

Nationally, Democrats introduced the Disarm Hate Act in Congress earlier this year. Backed by gun control groups to strip Second Amendment rights from those who commit misdemeanor hate crimes, the bill resembles the California bill. If passed, the bill would ban the sale of firearms to those convicted of vandalizing a place of worship, or assaulting someone based on their perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“If you commit a hate crime, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. Period,” said U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), who sponsored the bill. “There is a clear link between these horrific hate crimes and gun violence. We know that those who commit hate crimes become increasingly violent as time goes on. No American family should have to suffer because of this loophole.”

Introduced as H.R.2841 in the House and as S.1324 in the Senate, the bill would mean that convictions of misdemeanor hate crimes under state, federal, or tribal laws would be sufficient to deem an individual a prohibited firearms possessor in the eyes of the federal government. The bill goes on to define such an offense as any that came about because of a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.




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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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