Members Only | August 19, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hates Crimes Are Domestic Terrorism

Hatred isn’t new. What's new is hatred with easy access to massive lethality.

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Liberals have long believed hate crimes—violence against people due to their given or chosen identity—are morally equal to domestic terrorism. After all, hate crimes affect not only victims. Hate crimes terrorize whole communities of Americans. 

As of now, there is no state or federal statute defining the crime of domestic terrorism. Some laws define what it is, but not whether it’s a crime or how offenders should be punished. Some laws restrict terrorism only to actions aimed at state and federal government. (The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 are clear examples of terrorism.) But otherwise, laws are blind to what liberals have long thought obvious.

Patrick Crusius, for this reason, resides in a kind of legal no-man’s land. Crusius massacred dozens in El Paso because he intended to kill “Mexican invaders.” He will probably be convicted of hate crimes, but not domestic terrorism. There exist no such state or federal statutes. This is the case even as shock waves are coursing through virtually all communities comprising racial, ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

That’s the legal problem with hate crimes.

There’s a political problem, too. 

And with massive lethality comes collateral carnage in the process of committing hate crimes.

As long as acts of violence against American minorities are restricted to hate crimes, and separated from the growing menace of white-nationalist terrorism, the impetus for the government to respond is limited. If hate crimes were broadly recognized as a form of domestic terrorism that can and does affect everyone, the voting public might force Washington to act on gun control for the sake of national security. There is little movement of this kind, however, because these acts are deemed hate crimes only. 

Let’s put this in plain English: hate crimes are not typically seen as a white person’s problem; ergo, white Americans do not usually clamor for the government to take the necessary steps to protect our lives, liberty and property from the evil of domestic terrorism. Linking hate crimes to domestic terrorism would in effect socialize the political stakes so that everyone can demand gun control in everyone’s name. 

After all, hatred isn’t new. What’s new is hatred with easy access to massive lethality. And with that comes collateral carnage in the process of committing a hate crime. Eight of Crusius’ victims were Mexican nationals. Thirteen of 22 in all were Americans.

As I said, liberals have long seen the moral link between hate crimes and domestic terrorism, but government leaders have not. This seems to be shifting, though. I don’t mean to overstate it, but given our current paralysis on gun control, I don’t mean to understate it either. It would seem the dam is breaking—or at least sprung a leak. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week that he wants his state to be the first to classify “hate-fueled, American-on-American” violence as domestic terrorism. He called for raising criminal penalties to life in prison without parole for violence motivated by race, gender, sexual orientation and other protected classes. He said:

“Today, our people are three times more likely to suffer a terrorist attack launched by an American than one launched by a foreigner. This is not just repulsive. This is not just immoral. This is not just anti-American. It is illegal. And we must confront it by enacting a new law to fit the crime.” 

This is not insignificant.

Albany is now dominated by Democrats. There’s a better than even chance of Cuomo’s proposal becoming law. If so, that will likely inspire California to follow suit. If that happens, I’d expect a chain reaction even in states deeply committed to gun rights. 

Some critics have said such statutes would be redundant. Capital murder already gets life without parole, or capital punishment. Adding another life sentence isn’t going to change much. Civil liberties advocates add another layer of consideration, which is the possible infringement of free speech in the process of stopping domestic terrorism. 

These are worth thinking about deeply, and as we do, we should bear in mind that hate crimes terrorize people whose lives, liberty and property have been absent for years in national-security discourse. We should also bear in mind that mass murders of the kind we saw in El Paso are national-security issues. These are all morally linked, but they have not been linked legally. Fortunately, we are seeing that link taking shape.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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