Hate crime bills make movement in General Assembly

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RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — After years of stalls in the Virginia General Assembly, a package of bills going after hate crimes is inching closer to the governor’s desk.

Following “crossover,” 8News spoke with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring as both chambers of the General Assembly will consider legislation passed by their counterpart chambers.

“One of the measures in this package will update and modernize the definition of a hate crime to include crimes based on gender, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation,’ Herring said, referring to HB 618 which received a 56-43 vote of approval.

Among the list of measures making moves, one includes granting empowerment to the attorney general’s office to investigate hate crimes, something Herring said is currently done on a local level.

“Most crimes are prosecuted at the local level by commonwealths attorneys. but, it’s really important that our office–the office of attorney general–have the authority to prosecute hate crimes because crimes, these hate crimes are not just a crime against an individual, they’re designed to strike fear in an entire community of people.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on HB 787

Within communities, SB 35 would allow localities to ban guns in a public space during permitted events. The measure passed the Senate 21 to 19.

Punishing “paramilitary activity” received the same vote of approval in the Senate, and a measure to keep guns away from people convicted of hate crimes was included in House Bill 1288, which also passed.

Herring said, “it is the same mechanism of enforcement that we currently have for other laws, but closes a loophole and make sure that those who are convicted of hate crimes also cannot possess firearms.”

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