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Hate Crimes and Gun Violence

What is a hate crime?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

The majority of reported hate crimes in 2018 were motivated by race and ethnicity, followed by religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and then gender.

Hate Crimes Facts that Make You Act

  • 56,130 hate crimes were committed in the United States that involved the use of a gun from 2010 to 2016.*
  • In 2019 there were 22 reported homicides of transgender or gender nonconforming people. 91% of those victims were Black women.
  • 23.8% of transgender students report being threatened or injured with a weapon at school.
  • Anti-Jewish hate crimes rose by more than 37% between 2016 and 2017.
  • Hate crimes against Latinx people increased by 21% in 2018
  • In 2018, of 4,954 reported race/ethnicity/ancestry hate crimes, 46.9 percent were motivated by anti-Black or African American bias.

*Includes use of a gun to threaten or intimidate

Hate Crimes and Mass Shootings

Evidence shows hate crimes become more deadly when firearms are involved. In 2016 at the Pulse nightclub — a refuge for the LGBTQ community — in Orlando, Florida, a gunman shot and killed 49 people, injuring 53 others. The Pulse nightclub shooting was the deadliest hate crime committed against LGBTQ people in modern U.S. history and, because the shooting occurred during the club’s “Latin Night,” it also had a disproportionate effect on the Latinx community.

Mass shootings, like the one at Pulse nightclub, can increase psychological distress and deprive communities of safe spaces. A study found that LGBTQ individuals in socially conservative areas said they would be less likely to attend safe spaces like LGBTQ nightclubs due to safety concerns after the Pulse shooting. While the shooting at Pulse nightclub may be the deadliest hate crime incident recorded in recent history, it is certainly not the only hate driven mass shooting. Mass shootings driven by hate include, but are not limited to —

The History of Hate Crimes and Gun Violence

It is important to note that hate and firearms have a long history in America. As historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz noted in her book "Loaded":

“[T]he astronomical number of firearms owned by U.S. civilians, with the Second Amendment considered a sacred mandate, is also intricately related to militaristic culture and white nationalism. The militias referred to in the Second Amendment were intended as a means for white people to eliminate Indigenous communities in order to take their land, and for slave patrols to control Black people.”

Approximately 350 Lakota people, mostly women and children, were massacred with machine guns on December 29, 1890, near the Wounded Knee Creek in the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. And less than a century ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a thriving Black neighborhood, the Greenwood District, was devastated with bullets and flames that left 100-300 people dead and the entire neighborhood destroyed. In each of these cases, modern weapons allowed one hate-filled person to kill and injure mass groups of people.

It’s likely that there are many more hate crimes than we know, since evidence suggests that hate crimes are vastly underreported. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “more than half (54%) of hate crime victimizations were not reported to police during 2011-15.” The majority of hate crimes are not reported or are categorized in some other way.

How To Combat Hate Crimes

We can’t legislate people’s hearts, but we can keep guns away from those who’ve shown they are prone to hateful violence. Unfortunately, few states take such measures. Only seven states prevent individuals convicted of misdemeanor-level hate or bias motivated crimes from purchasing and possessing firearms:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon

The “Disarm Hate Act” (S. 1324) would close the current gap in federal law and prevent any person who has been convicted of a hate crimes misdemeanor, or who received a sentencing enhancement for hate or bias in the commission of a misdemeanor, from purchasing or possessing a firearm. It was first introduced in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting and re-introduced in the 115th Congress by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA). Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-01) again introduced a companion bill into the House of Representatives (H.R. 2841).


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