California Advances Bill To Close Hate Crime Gap

September 12, 2017 —Today, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, applauded the California Legislature for unanimously advancing a new bill, AB 785, which helps close a gap in California law that permits individuals convicted of hate crimes to possess and acquire firearms within 10 years of conviction. The bill now goes to Governor Brown’s desk.

Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions:

“The disturbing scenes we saw play out in the streets of Charlottesville are just one example of the hate that plagues our communities every day. 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. Today, California’s leaders acted, delivering a bipartisan victory that will help close a gaping loophole in California law that allows people convicted of hate crimes to own and obtain guns. 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.”

Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

“We’ve all witnessed the devastating consequences of shootings motivated by hate, from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston to the Oak Creek Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The Disarm Hate Act will help prevent these tragedies here in California by doing more to keep guns out of the hands of convicted hate offenders who have escalated their bigotry into violent assaults, threats, and other crimes. The California Legislature should be commended for advancing this lifesaving, bipartisan bill, and we call on Governor Brown to sign the Disarm Hate Act into law in short order.”

About AB 785

Under California law, individuals convicted of any of roughly 40 separate misdemeanors are prohibited from owning or acquiring guns for 10 years after conviction, unless they successfully petition a court to demonstrate that they are not a threat to public safety. However, the state penal code’s list of firearm-prohibiting misdemeanors does not include hate crimes.

Between 2010 and 2014, roughly 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States involved the use or threatened use of a gun. And since 2014, hate crime incidents have become more numerous and more vicious, both in California and across the United States, posing a serious threat to targeted groups and innocent lives.

The Disarm Hate Act (AB 785), which was drafted and sponsored by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, would prohibit people convicted of hate crime misdemeanors from accessing lethal weapons within 10 years of conviction, unless they can successfully demonstrate to a court that they are not a threat to public safety.