California bill would take guns from those in the ‘Hate Crime Loophole’

California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, argues his bill could help disarm those who may have violent tendencies foreshadowed by minor crimes. (Photo: Assembly Democratic Caucus)

California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, argues his bill could help disarm those who may have violent tendencies foreshadowed by minor civil rights-related crimes. (Photo: Assembly Democratic Caucus)

The California Senate Public Safety Committee is set to hear an Assembly bill on Tuesday that would strip gun rights from those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes.

The measure, AB 785, passed the Assembly in May without a single “no” vote and is backed by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, who argues it could help disarm those who may have violent tendencies foreshadowed by minor crimes.

“Violent extremists and hate groups often use firearms as tools of force and intimidation,” said Jones-Sawyer in a note to lawmakers. “Recent mass murders targeting our nation’s LGBT, African American, and religious minority communities — shootings at the nightclub in Orlando, an historic church in Charleston, and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek — were among the deadliest hate crimes ever committed in our nation’s history.”

His bill, the Disarm Hate Act, adds to the state’s already existing list of misdemeanor crimes that result in an automatic 10-year prohibition on possessing a firearm. The additions would include those who are convicted of misdemeanor interference with another person’s civil rights or damage of property because of their perceived race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. Violations would be a felony and result in a lifetime gun ban.

“We decided to go in close that loop, prohibit them from owning a firearm,” said Jones-Sawyer.

The lawmaker argues that six states — Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon — have enacted laws to prohibit those with misdemeanor hate crime convictions from possessing and acquiring firearms.

The measure has the backing of several gun control organizations, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Violence Prevention Coalition, and Coalition Against Gun Violence.

“Passing AB 785 will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Amanda Wilcox, with the Brady Campaign. “In California alone, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in hate crimes since 2014. Hate-driven, criminal hands have no business having guns.”

California’s Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has in the past vetoed expanions to the 10-year ban in 2016 and 2013, arguing the proposals found a novel way to make a new crime, which the Governor said is the last thing the state needs due to prison overcrowding.