Cicilline, Casey Introduce Disarm Hate Act

Jun 8, 2017

WASHINGTON – Just days before the anniversaries of the massacres at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and U.S. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced the Disarm Hate Act today to prevent individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing a gun.

“If you commit a hate crime, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. Period,” said Cicilline. “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. Let’s disarm hate once and for all.”

Cicilline first introduced the Disarm Hate Act in February 2016. Casey later introduced a companion measure in the Senate. The bill closes the Violent Hate Crimes Loophole that permits the sale of firearms to individuals who have been convicted of threatening with a deadly weapon or assaulting someone based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

"If you’ve been convicted of a crime based on hate, you should have zero access to a gun. It’s not complicated," said Senator Casey. "It is time for Congress to step up to the horrors of gun violence. If we care about the safety and security of our communities, it’s imperative that we put measures in place to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

"The impending anniversaries of two of the deadliest hate-motivated shootings in the U.S. present a grim reminder of the tragic results when violent hate crimes are fueled by easy access to guns and the recent rise in hate violence across the U.S. highlights the urgent need to act,” added Chelsea Parsons, Vice President of Guns and Crime Policy at the Center for American Progress. “This bill closes a dangerous gap in our nation's laws and would represent a significant step forward in helping prevent future acts of bias and bigotry from becoming fatal encounters."

Convicted felons are prohibited from possessing a gun under Federal law. But although 30 states have misdemeanor-level hate crimes or sentence enhancements on the books, only six states prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying firearms. Easy access to firearms continues to enable hate criminals and violent extremists across the United States. A 2014 study conducted by Indiana State University found that since 2001, lone wolf terrorists have increasingly turned to high-powered guns, rather than explosives, as their weapon of choice.

“There is no place for hate in America, but acts of violence and intimidation fueled by hate happen every day. As we prepare to mark the heartbreaking anniversaries of the massacres at Pulse Nightclub and Mother Emanuel, we should all take a moment to recognize the role we must play build a safer, kinder and more tolerant nation. Our nation’s leaders in Washington can lead by example. They can come together, put politics and partisanship aside, and close a gap in federal law that lets dangerous people convicted of hate crimes obtain guns,” said Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions. “We applaud Senator Casey and Congressman Cicilline for introducing this responsible bill that may help prevent the next hate-filled tragedy.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 59% of domestic terrorist attacks carried out between April 1, 2009 and February 1, 2015 were perpetrated with a gun. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found roughly 43,000 hate crimes involving the use of a firearm in the United States between 2010 and 2014.

“We cannot accept armed hatred becoming the country’s new normal,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s intolerable that violent criminals convicted of hate crimes can buy and possess guns legally in the United States. Rep. Cicilline’s and Sen. Casey’s bill is a common-sense solution, and now Congress should act on its obligation to protect Americans from hate-fueled attacks.”

Examples of hate crimes involving the use of guns have garnered significant national attention in recent years. Last summer, a gunman target Pulse Nightclub, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, where he murdered 49 innocent people. Two years ago, nine people were killed after a white supremacist opened fire inside Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Two police officers were shot and killed – their bodies covered with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a swastika – in Las Vegas in June 2014. In August 2012, six people were killed and four injured after a white supremacist used a 9mm handgun to attack a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

“When a person commits a criminal act of hate, they should not have access to a firearm. This is the kind of commonsense action we can all agree on to keep our families and communities safe,” said Mark Barden, Managing Director, Sandy Hook Promise. “At Sandy Hook Promise, we know that gun violence is preventable and it begins with these first steps to ensure people who are a danger to themselves or others don’t have access to firearms. We applaud this legislation to disarm hate and save lives.”

“A year ago, a man filled with hate was able to get his hands on a gun and unleash tragic violence in Orlando's Pulse nightclub,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We have to do better than the world that made it so easy for him, and so many other dangerous people, to get guns. Brady background checks are the single most effective way to do that, making the Disarm Hate Act a lifesaving no-brainer. Hate crimes are multiplying at an alarming rate, with major metro areas seeing a 20 percent increase last year. Congress has a responsibility now to make sure those criminals can no longer act out on that hate.”

“When a person commits a criminal act of hate, they should not have access to a firearm. This is the kind of commonsense action we can all agree on to keep our families and communities safe,” said Mark Barden, Managing Director, Sandy Hook Promise. “At Sandy Hook Promise, we know that gun violence is preventable and it begins with these first steps to ensure people who are a danger to themselves or others don’t have access to firearms. We applaud this legislation to disarm hate and save lives.”

“The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, a coalition of 97 partner organizations representing over 120,000 Rhode Islanders, strongly supports Representative Cicilline’s proposed legislation that would keep firearms out of the hands of members of known hate groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center the number of hate groups in the U.S. and in Rhode Island is on the rise in part due to President Trump's irresponsible rhetoric on immigration,” stated the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence. “One group that is active in Rhode Island has been known to advocate and commit acts of violence against law enforcement. We applaud Congressman Cicilline for proposing this important legislation and for his commitment and continued advocacy to the safety of all Rhode Island residents.”