In the United States, if you’re convicted of a felony, you cannot lawfully own a gun. Along the line, someone decided that those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges shouldn’t be able to have guns, either.
Critics of that effort, such as myself, aren’t so much about cutting domestic abusers slack as we are about trying to prevent a slippery slope.
After all, once you include a misdemeanor, more are bound to follow, right?
Well, a Pennsylvania congressman has introduced a new bill that would do that, only this time it would be for hate crimes.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.,on Thursday introduced legislation that would prevent people convicted of violent misdemeanor hate crimes from obtaining guns.
The Disarm Hate Act addresses a gap in current federal law, which currently prohibits those convicted of felonies — including hate crimes— from possessing guns. The bill would update the law to include those convicted of violent misdemeanor-level hate crimes from obtaining a firearm.
“People who have been convicted of hate crimes should not have access to firearms. It’s that simple,” Casey said in a statement. “I’m introducing the Disarm Hate Act because it’s commonsense to keep guns out of the hands of people seeking to commit acts of hateful violence.”
Now, these kinds of things are sneaky, in part because no one wants to be seen supporting perpetrators of hate crimes.
I dislike “hate crime” as a legal term, mostly because it’s just too close to the idea of ThoughtCrime for my liking. After all, you’re prosecuting someone for what is in their heart when they commit a crime. Is beating someone to death somehow better than beating them to death because they’re black or Jewish?
I don’t really think so.
So I’m not a fan of this whole “hate crime” thing anyway.
And when you start trying to turn people convicted of misdemeanors into prohibited people, we have an issue, even if it is for a so-called hate crime.
First, someone who commits a misdemeanor may be starting down the long path toward violent crime, or they may be someone who made a stupid mistake and changed their heart and mind. Remember that just spray painting something might constitute a misdemeanor hate crime in some places. Should such a person lose a constitutionally protected right?
And the thing is, Casey doesn’t really think these people are that dangerous.
Why do I say this? Because he could be pushing a bill to turn these crimes into felonies, which would automatically come with gun prohibition and a longer initial sentence. If people are so dangerous they should never be allowed to lawfully touch a firearm ever again, why is a sentence of less than a year in jail sufficient?
But this isn’t really about hate crimes.
This is about expanding the list of misdemeanors that lead to a prohibited status until almost everything is on the list. We’ve seen states try and prohibit people for DUI, for example, and there will no doubt be more.
Hate crimes are generally viewed as egregious by society because of the fact that it’s motivated by some form of bigotry. I don’t disagree with that, either. I may not want someone prosecuted for what’s in their hearts but I can’t deny some people are just hateful.
So, this is a good target for this kind of law, precisely because no one wants to defend such people.
Yet do not delude yourself into thinking it will stop here. It won’t.