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Hate crime weapons bill heading to state Senate

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Apr 12, 2023

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A bill that would prevent those who have committed hate crimes from having access to weapons is heading to the state Senate floor.

Senate Bill 171 proposes if an offender has been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a hate crime involving violence, they won't be able to carry a weapon for 10 years.

State senator Dallas Harris said it's a law that could cut down on gun violence in Nevada communities.

"In this day and age, we have people who are surviving one mass shooting just to die in another one. We have veterans who are surviving their time overseas to come home and die in mass shootings," Harris said. "That's just to say that we've got to do something."

According to Tonya Schardt from Brady United Against Gun Violence, every year, there are about 10,300 victims of hate crimes with firearms. She said 47 states have hate crime laws but they vary greatly.

The Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence said here in Nevada, there is a "glaring safety gap" when it comes to hate crimes.

"Under existing Nevada hate crime law, Nevada directs courts to issue longer prison sentences if prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt it was a hate crime," said Ari Freilich, the state policy director with The Giffords Law Center. "But under existing Nevada and federal law, people convicted of these same extended prison term hate crime offenses generally remain eligible to keep and access guns, including assault weapons, at all times."

Some testified before lawmakers saying the definition of hate crime listed in the bill was "overly broad".

"It includes a lot of non-violent misdemeanor-type offenses. If you look at the definition [in the bill], you have crimes like disturbing a meeting, nuisance in a public building, hanging up posters. That is of concern to us," said Dan Reed, the Western Regional Director of the National Rifle Association. "Imagine someone who shows up at a school because they object to the content being portrayed there and they might find themselves in this situation. We don't want a person to end up in that situation. If you look at the bill, it doesn't seem to be so comprehensive but when you dig into the definitions and all the offenses there, that's where it becomes more problematic."

Senator Ira Hansen also said it wouldn't be fair since the bill could open up victims to be treated differently.

"I don't think there should be different classes of victims when the acts of violence are the same," Hansen said. "You shouldn't add additional punishments because of the thoughts behind what motivated the crime."

However, Senator Harris disagreed.

"I personally believe the right thing to do is to add an additional punishment if you're assaulting someone for an immutable characteristic versus if they wronged you," Harris said. "We must discourage that type of behavior."

The committee voted and passed the legislation by a vote of 5-3.

Senate Bill 171 will now move to the Senate floor.

Some of the groups that are supporting the bill include the Anti-Defamation League, the Nevada LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Organization, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, Battleborn Progress, and Nevada Moms Demand Action.

Some of the groups against the bill include the Republican party and the Independent American Party.