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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act

Washington, September 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during a markup of H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act: 

“With the sharp increase in hate crimes in this country, it is sadly important that the Committee today adopt H.R. 2708, the ‘Disarm Hate Act.’  This bill, introduced by our colleague, the Gentleman from Rhode Island, Mr. Cicilline, would prohibit the purchase or possession of firearms by individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor-level hate crime, or who have received an enhanced sentence on account of unlawful bias for certain misdemeanor convictions. 

“The FBI reports that there has been a significant increase in hate crimes over the past three years, with more than 7,100 hate crimes reported in 2017 alone.  This count is likely a substantial undercount of the total number of hate-motivated crimes that occur in communities throughout the country, as reporting of these incidents to law enforcement remains sporadic. 

“According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 204,000 hate crimes targeting victims based on their actual or perceived race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion are committed in the U.S. every year. 

“Our country has been particularly devastated by a series of horrific mass murders motivated by hate in recent years.  In 2012, a white supremacist attacked worshippers in a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing 6 people and injuring 4 others.  In 2015, a white supremacist murdered 9 worshippers during a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, an historic African American church.  In 2016, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida was attacked, leaving 49 people dead and 53 others injured, most of whom where LGBTQ and Latino. 

“A total of 12 people were killed and 10 wounded during attacks at synagogues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Poway, California in recent incidents just 6 months apart.  And just last month, a shooter in El Paso targeted Mexican-Americans who were shopping at a Walmart store, killing 22.

“These horrific attacks have two things in common: they were all hate crimes and they were all committed with a gun.  As these tragedies, and tens of thousands of other examples show, guns are a frequent tool of hate-motivated violence and intimidation.  From 2010 through 2015, 46,500 hate crimes committed in the U.S. involved a gun.  Despite these grim statistics, our nation’s weak gun laws give easy access to guns for individuals seeking to do harm.   

“Under current law, many of those who have been convicted of misdemeanor-level hate crimes remain free to buy and possess guns.  These misdemeanor hate crimes include many types of threatening and dangerous conduct, including assault and threats or harassment of members of a protected class.  Roughly half the states have misdemeanor hate crime or sentencing enhancements, for which a conviction would not currently prohibit firearms purchase or possession. 

“The Disarm Hate Act would address this dangerous gap in the law by prohibiting individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor-level hate crime or have received a hate crime sentencing enhancement from buying or possessing guns.  The bill’s prohibition extends only to those convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime or those who have had an enhancement imposed on them because of the use or attempted use of physical force, the threatened use of a deadly weapon, or other credible threat to the physical safety of a person.   

“This qualifying language ensures that this added prohibition applies only to those convicted of underlying crimes that pose a public safety risk.  This is a modest, common sense measure that will help ensure that people with a demonstrated history of hate-motivated violence do not continue to have easy access to firearms.   

“Each person who would be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun under this bill has been found, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have committed a crime of violence or criminal, physical threats based on the race or sex of the victim.  This bill sends a strong message that hate violence is dangerous and unacceptable and that we will do everything in our power to help prevent hate-fueled attacks perpetrated by armed assailants. Therefore, I support this important legislation and I urge its quick adoption today.”

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