While the overall crime rate has been slowly declining for several decades in the United States, hate crimes in this nation are on the rise. Precisely what is the definition of a hate crime? According to the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, hate crimes are “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”

The National Crime Victimization Survey reports that from 2010 through 2014, approximately 43,000 hate crimes that involved the use or the threat of a firearm were committed across the nation. Since 2014, according to the California Department of Justice, these hate crime incidents are happening with alarmingly greater frequency – and are becoming increasingly violent – particularly in our own state.

One California lawmaker wants to prevent violence based on hate by preventing anyone who is convicted of a hate crime from purchasing or owning a firearm in this state. California State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles says that persons convicted of hate crimes are likely to commit more violent crimes in the future. Jones-Sawyer also says that lawmakers in California can reduce gun violence in the future by passing a law that prevents the offenders who are convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing or owning firearms.

WHAT IS THE DISARM HATE ACT?

This year, Jones-Sawyer is the sponsor of Assembly Bill 785, the “Disarm Hate Act,” which would prevent anyone who is convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun for ten years after the conviction. The law would apply to anyone who is convicted of vandalizing a place of worship or committing a crime against someone based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Any violation of the Disarm Hate Act would be considered a felony and penalized with a lifetime gun ownership ban. In May, the Disarm Hate Act passed with unanimous support in the California State Assembly. As of mid-June, the proposal is under consideration by the California State Senate. By the time you read this, it’s possible that the legislation may already be California law.

The Legislative Chair of the California Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is Amanda Wilcox. Ms. Wilcox says, “Passing AB 785 will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. In California alone, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in hate crimes since 2014. Hate-driven, criminal hands have no business having guns.”

Along with the Brady Campaign, the Disarm Hate Act is also supported by the Violence Prevention Coalition and by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. A fact sheet compiled by the Brady Campaign explains the rationale behind the Disarm Hate Act:

“Studies have documented that people who have committed violent crimes in the past, are much more likely to commit subsequent acts of violence. People who have committed violent hate crimes are an even greater risk to public safety because ‘individuals who commit hate crimes tend to escalate their conduct in order to ensure their message is received by the targeted individual or community.’ These patterns clearly underscore the need to ensure that individuals who have already escalated their hateful conduct, and who have been duly convicted of violent hate crimes, are temporarily prevented from possessing or acquiring guns after being convicted.”

WHICH STATES PREVENT HATE CRIME OFFENDERS FROM OWNING GUNS?

Six states – Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware, New Jersey, Oregon, and Minnesota – already bar offenders who have misdemeanor hate crime convictions from owning or buying firearms. California, however, recently passed a different kind of law to reduce gun violence. Since January 2016, if you believe that a member of your immediate family may commit imminent gun violence, you can ask a California judge to order law enforcement officers to confiscate your relative’s firearms – at least temporarily.

A Gun Violence Restraining Order or GVRO temporarily prevents a person from possessing, using, or transporting any firearm or ammunition. When a judge issues a GVRO, a hearing must be scheduled and held within 21 days to determine if the Gun Violence Restraining Order should be extended for a full year, and additional yearly hearings may subsequently be scheduled if warranted.

The law in California clearly spells out which firearms are legal and illegal in this state and who may or may not possess, transport, or use a firearm. All automatic weapons and a number of other firearms are against the law to buy, sell, possess, or transport in California. Anyone who is charged with one of the weapons crimes listed here – or any other firearms violation – should immediately contact an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney for legal advice and defense representation:

  • brandishing or discharging a firearm
  • carrying a concealed firearm
  • committing a drive-by shooting
  • possession of an illegal firearm
  • the unlawful sale of a firearm

HOW CAN YOU LOSE YOUR RIGHT TO OWN FIREARMS IN CALIFORNIA?

The law in California already prevents anyone who has a felony conviction from owning, carrying, or using a firearm in this state. A person can also forfeit his or her right to own a firearm in California with a conviction for certain other crimes such as intimidating a witness, threatening a police officer, discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, and some crimes of domestic violence.

If you are employed in the firearms business or in the security industry, or if you are employed as a law enforcement officer in California, the loss of your right to own a firearm could possibly also mean the loss of your job. However, in some limited and specific cases, an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney may be able to help you restore your gun rights if you have lost your right to own a firearm in this state.

If you are ever accused of a felony or a hate crime of any kind in Southern California, you will also need the legal assistance that an experienced California defense attorney can provide. If you are currently a gun owner in this state, own your weapon responsibly. Consider taking a refresher course on gun safety. Ensure that your firearm is stored legally, responsibly, and safely. The state of California aggressively enforces its gun laws, and judges in our state offer no mercy to anyone who is convicted of a firearms violation.