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Hate-crime legislation would backfire

Prosecute violent criminals for their actions, not their ideas.

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Congress seems intent on passing new hate-crime legislation. It may sound like a surefire way to tamp down on hate crime, but it won't work.

The law would expand federal jurisdiction from crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, or national origin to include the victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. It also disconnects the prosecution from traditional civil rights statutes such that whole categories of intrastate crimes successfully prosecuted by state courts would become the business of the federal government.

There are two problems with the proposed law. First, crimes motivated by racial animus, misogyny, or homophobia are already recognized as atrocities and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No new law is needed. Second, making the ideology of the perpetrator a centerpiece of the trial doesn't deter like-minded extremists; it encourages them.

We don't have to look far through today's headlines to see that the current system works. Those who commit crimes of violence motivated by extremist ideology are consistently locked up by a rule of law that criminalizes their actions, not their ideas.

Scott Roeder is accused of shooting abortion doctor George Tiller to death; he is sitting in jail awaiting prosecution. The same goes for Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot up an Army recruiting station in Arkansas and killed Pvt. William Long. As soon as Holocaust Museum shooter James von Brunn is out of the hospital, he can join them.

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