Virginia's attorney general pushing for anti-hate-crime laws

Published: Nov. 15, 2018 at 8:02 PM EST
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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Thursday unveiled legislation aimed at preventing hate crimes and white-supremacist violence as reports of such incidents increase around the country.

This will be Herring's third consecutive proposal of similar legislation. Previous attempts have failed to win approval from Virginia's General Assembly, even after a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.

Herring said his proposals would create more tools for law enforcement to identify hate groups and step in before they commit violence. The measures would also bar anyone convicted of a hate crime from possessing a gun.

One bill would restrict the kind of paramilitary activity by white supremacist militias and similar groups like those seen in Charlottesville. A woman was killed and at least 19 others were injured when a car plowed into a group of people who had been protesting white nationalists.

Herring has scheduled round-table discussions about his proposals around the state and invited the public and local lawmakers to attend. He plans to introduce his proposals after the legislature reconvenes in January.

The proposals have so far been blocked by Republicans in the legislature concerned that they were overly broad and restricted gun rights.

Herring cited a recent state police report that said hate crimes in Virginia have risen by about 65 percent over the past five years. A report released by the FBI this week showed that in 2017, law enforcement agencies reported 7,175 hate crimes, an increase of about 17 percent over the previous year.

"It is well past time to acknowledge the threat posed by hate and white-supremacist violence and take action to stop it," Herring said.