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I hate hate crime laws, but I hate hate crimes more

Let me make one thing clear: I don't like hate crime laws.

I think they're a bad idea. The message they tend to send is that some victims are more important than others, and certain people deserve more protection than others. As someone who doesn't fall into any of the conventional "protected" classes, I feel a smidgen of resentment that if I get assaulted, there's a good chance that it won't be treated as seriously than if I were a woman, gay, black, or some other category. The presumption seems to be that I can take care of myself more than others, and the law is engineered to reflect that.

That being said, there's a potential "hate crime" that happened last night in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A guy went into Puzzles, asked if it was a gay bar (it is), then started assaulting a patron. After knocking him down, he pulled out a hatchet (or something similar) and started swinging that. When more patrons went to stop him, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.

At least three patrons ended up in hospitals, and the assailant is still at large.

I hope the police find this SOB. I hope like hell he resists arrest. And I hope he spends a nice, long time as a guest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

No, I don't agree with hate crime laws. But if it fits this case, then they ought to use it. But what he did was serious enough, and the other laws ought to suffice for cases such as this.

(Check here for the latest details and updates)

Comments (29)

The whole point of hate cri... (Below threshold)
Bat One:

The whole point of hate crime legislation is to institutionalize a political spoils system for each successive group of minority victims. The very notion that a crime is more heinous because the victim is black, or female, or gay, or Muslim, ought to be constitutionally unconscionable. And hopefully our recently re-shaped Supreme Court will avail itself of the opportunity to rethink that very question.

In the meantime, to quote a rather famous pig, "Some animals are more equal than others."

I hate hate crimes laws too... (Below threshold)

I hate hate crimes laws too. I was in an ad against hate crimes that was featured in several state papers and in Roll Call.

At the same time this is descpicable and the attacker should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. AND take it a step further, I have encouraged Senators to opposed Hate Crimes and ALSO facilitate local dialog among diverse leaders to combat true homophobia.

Hate Crime Bills were desig... (Below threshold)

Hate Crime Bills were designed to protect segments of our population who are at INCREASED RISK of being attacked because of who they are. If one is white and straight in this country you may not have ever had the word "faggot" or "nigger" screamed at you as you walk down the street, so I can understand why you may not agree with a law that takes a very small step in making your fellow Americans who pay the same tax rate as you, feel just a little safer.

If one is white an... (Below threshold)
If one is white and straight in this country you may not have ever had the word "faggot" or "nigger" screamed at you as you walk down the street...

It would be kind of silly for someone to scream those wiords at me, which is why they screamed other words at me instead.

But since I'm not a member of an explicitly protected class of persons, I just have to grin and bear it.

Sorry, I just don't buy that. Risk of attack is dependent on factors other than mere membership in this or that identity group, and as long as "hate crime" laws emphasize identity group membership over all the other factors, they will remain fundamentally un-American.

If one is white an... (Below threshold)
If one is white and straight in this country you may not have ever had the word "faggot" or "nigger" screamed at you as you walk down the street

No, of course a white, straight person would not have "faggot" or "nigger" screamed at them. But, I have been to certain sections of Raleigh, Dallas and New Orleans where my likelihood of being attacked was greatly increased just because I was white.

so I can understand why you may not agree with a law that takes a very small step in making your fellow Americans who pay the same tax rate as you, feel just a little safer.

And just how would hate crime laws make people safer? If someone hates his fellow man so much that they will go out and attack them, then extra punishment will not deter them. They are already planning to commit a crime that would entail serious jail terms and/or the death penalty for their actions. Adding a few extra years isn't going to change their minds.

And, as a white person, will I feel safer when I have to visit certain areas of town where I am not currently welcome?

ok your joking right? the l... (Below threshold)

ok your joking right? the law was enacted to combat a type of crime that only exists for the minorities it protects. as a straight male you dont have to worry about being gay bashed for holding someones hand or making a comment to a freind on a street. so of course you dont see the validity in it. Im baffled you can be that dense...

as for the guy in massachusets i wouldve killed the mutherfu**er with his own gun and HAPPILY done time for it.

The black guy, not from the... (Below threshold)

The black guy, not from the South and therefore not a "victim" of slavery, who shot up the Long Island Railroad some years back was NOT prosecuted for a hate crime, even though he stated he attacked the victims because they were white.

Some in our society would like to hold members of different groups to different standards. That flies in the face of Dr. King's goals, and the folks who push hate crime legislation know it. Their goals are NOT to make the United States of America better for all of its citizens.

how does that effect the ne... (Below threshold)

how does that effect the need for a hate crime law? tell me one negative thing its done? you may not like it as someone who isnt discriminated against but what has it done to you thats SO bad that it should be abolished?

all i see with all this talk is a large sense of jealousy, the people who dont want legislation to make life equal for gays and lesbians have nothing to lose, except maybe suppresing another minority. get over it

Hate crime laws are stupid.... (Below threshold)

Hate crime laws are stupid. They do not increase anyone's protection at the risk of lessening respect for law in general. For all you hate crimes fans out there, I ask the flip side. Show me the law that says you do 25 years for hitting a straight, white guy with a hatchet, but you do 5 for a gay guy. Can't find such a law? I didn't think so. The law does in fact protect all equally. Hate crime laws are really meant to establish the groundwork for prosecutions for thoughtcrime. That's why I oppose them. Think about it. 'Hate crime' is abstract in exactly the same way as 'thought crime.' The law should be concerned only with 'crime crime', and should concern itself with one's state of mind only in establishing guilt. You may care whether a man kills another out of hate or greed. With the exception of maybe sentencing, the law should not, because it is the behavior, not the motive, that constitutes the crime. There shouldn't be a special 'greed' version of the murder law, and a 'hate' version, and then we might as well have a 'passion' version if we are going to go that far.

That having been said, the law should be prosecuted to the fullest when they find this son of a bitch.

"But what he did was seriou... (Below threshold)

"But what he did was serious enough, and the other laws ought to suffice for cases such as this."

BINGO. The man appears to be unquestionably guilty on several charges, including attempted murder. While his apparent homophobia should play a role in the trial (it establishes motive), I don't see why it should result in some additional charge. Is he somehow more guilty than a guy who shoots up a bar full of WASPs?

spike wrote:

"as a straight male you dont have to worry about being gay bashed for holding someones hand or making a comment to a freind on a street. so of course you dont see the validity in it."

I understand your point, but consider a couple of things:

1. I think everybody here agrees that people who do things like this clown did should be locked away for a long time, if not executed. We DON'T want to give him a pass.

2. Imputing homophobia to people who are otherwise on your side doesn't exactly win friends and influence people.

3. Do hate crimes laws do anything to make minorities safer, or do they simply reinforce the idea that minorities are "different" and hence give cretins an excuse to attack them?

4. Would you support legislation for stricter penalties against those who assault white men? What about rich people? Laws like this have existed in the past and were a stench in the nostrils of people who valued blind justice. You are proposing to bring those laws back, only in favor of a group that you support. Is that justice?

spike also wrote:

"as a straight male you dont have to worry about being gay bashed for holding someones hand or making a comment to a freind on a street."

True enough. But let's be clear on our terms. If by "gay bashing" you mean insulting people for their sexual preference, then I say that it is deplorable, but it shouldn't be illegal. I have been insulted many times in my life because I'm overweight, but I don't think that "fat bashing" should be a crime.

Now, if by "gay bashing" you mean physical assault / attempted murder of homosexuals, then this is already a crime. As I noted above, homophobia would be used by the prosecutor to establish motive. I think any person of good conscience would support the strongest penalties for a person convicted of such crimes, regardless of the sexual orientation of the victim.

when i spoke of bashing yes... (Below threshold)

when i spoke of bashing yes i mean physically, i dont care what anyone thinks of me, but if you raise a hand to me becasuse im queer (after i get done pulling my doc marten out of your ass) you need to be put in jail for a long time.

someone said up there a white guy wouldnt get the same treatment under the hate crime law, suprise suprise yes they do. the question is when has that been a class of people who have been assaulted? hate crime is a crime against someone based on their skin color, gender, etc. that includes het's and white's (as well as overweight people) not just minorities.

if a black guy did shoot a bunch of people for being white and the judge didnt classify it as hate crime he should be kicked from the bar.

as a subnote im not trying to make enemies here, im just very inflammed that this kind of shi* is still going on and anyone could be against stopping it in any way possible, including further legslation

spike and who all else... ... (Below threshold)

spike and who all else... There is, and always has been, the tendancy for society and therefore for law enforcement to not take certain sorts of crime seriously. Rape is a good example. Lynchings. Gay bashings. Domestic abuse.

It is certainly true that some people who object to "hate" crime laws really would prefer to go back to turning a blind eye to those sorts of victimizations *however* fear of being lumped together with them is not a good enough reason to turn a different sort of blind eye to the fact that "hate crime" is the formalization of "thought police." Thought police is someplace that we, as a free society, never ever want to go.

Having a good reason, a noble cause, to compromise our basic principles only makes the situation more dangerous to our freedom.

What we *need* is not hate crime law. What we *need* is for equal protection and prosecution of anyone who is guilty of a crime, no matter that the victim was "just an Injun" or a "nigger" or a "fag" or a woman "asking for it."

Equal protection under the law applied to *everything* solves not only "hate crime" problems but the disproportionate response to crimes against poor people compared to crimes against the rich, or ones committed by poor people compared to ones committed by the rich, etc. And rather than being based on something antithetical to our beliefs it strengthens them. Should the police cheif or the son of the congresswoman get a pass for driving drunk? In *many* places they do. But public belief is overwhelmingly that some people are *not* more equal than others and that this sort of "looking the other way" is a disgrace.

Blind justice and true equality removes priviledge from the high at the same time that it protects the low.

If we hold even tighter to our core values we solve, or work to solve, an entire array of injustices. Hate crime laws, in an attempt to bandage up one hemorrage, simultaneously tear the fabric elsewhere. It's *not* a good thing.

in a perfect world wed solv... (Below threshold)

in a perfect world wed solve our core problems and genderism orientationism would disappear, but its not going to happen anytime soon unfortunately, you dont seem to understand that hate crime laws protect everyone, even majorities, men women straigh gay everyone. it forces the hand of the judge to take a case seriously and NOT turn a blind eye due to personal convictions. Without the law the judge could give a much lesser sentence like community service for a week, however WITH the law there are much stronger mandates for the way the perp is treated.

im sorry if "I" seem dense, but i just dont see how requiring the prosecution gay bashers/straight bashers/anti-female etc on the basis of that is a bad thing.

my argument in short: you have every right to hate me for being queer, you do NOT have the right to put your hands on me because of it. far beyond the physical damage done goes the mental damage.

as a subnote im not tryi... (Below threshold)

as a subnote im not trying to make enemies here, im just very inflammed that this kind of shi* is still going on and anyone could be against stopping it in any way possible, including further legslation

How would it help? All those things are MAJOR CRIMES. Do you think the kind of bigot who would assault someone for bigoted reasons is going to hve enough law knowledge to pause and say, "You know, beating him up isn't worth it. It'd be worth it if it were just assault, but adding the hate crime charge....."

im sorry if "I" seem den... (Below threshold)

im sorry if "I" seem dense, but i just dont see how requiring the prosecution gay bashers/straight bashers/anti-female etc on the basis of that is a bad thing.

Simple question. Two guys get beaten to within an inch of their lives. One because he's gay. The other to get his wallet and watch.

Why is one worse than the other? Why should they be treated differently, as hate crime law privides for?

the treatment needs to be a... (Below threshold)

the treatment needs to be at least equal, the purpose of the law is to make sure the legal authorities handle the prior with as much seriousness as the latter.

your both missing the purpose of the law. not to make it better for any group than others, its to ensure equal treatment.

a lot of people say that we as gays shouldnt get special privelages so we can get legally married....."special privilages so we can get legally married" privilages every other hetero couple has had for centuries.

do you all see the comparison here?

your both missing the pu... (Below threshold)

your both missing the purpose of the law. not to make it better for any group than others, its to ensure equal treatment.

So you're making an assumption of bad faith, that the judge/jury/prosecutor will take the watch stealing seriously but not the gay-bashing. Is that correct? That all are bigots and must be prodded?

I think many here are missi... (Below threshold)

I think many here are missing the application of hate crime laws that actually does make sense. Of course some bastard who will assault someone because they're gay or black or whatever is not going to reconsider simply because the punishment might be slightly greater due to hate crime laws. However, there are other, non-violent offenses that are considered hate crimes where the punishment would be mild if they weren't. Examples of this would be a burning cross on a black family's lawn, swastikas painted onto Jewish homes and cemetaries, spraypainting "AIDS cures faggots" on someone's car. These are all things that happen (I've witnessed one of them myself), and are simple vandalism without a hate crime punishment attached. Maybe, in those kinds of cases, the increased punishment would be a deterrent against the offenders doing it again, and maybe some jail time will keep them from escalating to violent attacks, which often happens with offenders like that.

I think as a preventative measure hate-crime laws can have some effect, though I don't have any numbers to back that up or anything.

Good point, mantis. I thin... (Below threshold)

Good point, mantis. I think that most of us would agree that the effect of a hate message is substantially different from the effect of simple vandalism. So we feel in our gut that the punishment ought to be greater.

The crime of "stalking" comes to mind. I think that it's good that we finally have laws that criminalize this sort of deliberate terrorizing of people. Do we have laws similar to that to punish the deliberate terrorizing of people that could be applied to situations as you describe?

spike, the problem with making laws with the expectation that they will balance treatment because they are *heavier* is that while that may be true, it reenforces rather than lessens the unequal application of laws. It takes a wrong practice *now* (unequal enforcement) and sets up new laws so that the laws themselves are unequal, which, logically, is going to be compensated for or else resented.

It's more like affirmative action than gay marriage. Affirmative action takes a real problem of unequal treatment and in the interest of reaching equality sets a counter balance into the law itself, an *in*equality that is written right into the legal code.

We should denounce preferences but we should *not* codify preferences. It's internally inconsistant.

Marriage *is* different than that. I personally have argued *for* gay marriage but not on the basis of equality because marriage has always been severely limited by law... and not just to the right sort of heterosexual couples or even couples at all.

"Hate crime laws are really... (Below threshold)

"Hate crime laws are really meant to establish the groundwork for prosecutions for thoughtcrime."

Using this logic it seems we shouldn't factor intent into any crimes. No difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, no separate degrees for murder, no assault with intent to injure. After all, the intent is all about your thought process when you committed the crime.

It's not against the law to... (Below threshold)

It's not against the law to *want* to murder someone. It is against the law to take physical steps to attempt that murder or find and hire someone to do it.

How do you feel about criminalizing speech? The human tendancy to want to *make* people behave is strong. Being wary of things that edge toward criminalizing speech or criminalizing unsavory opinions isn't being paranoid. We hold the line because it requires being held.

a lot of the anti arguments... (Below threshold)

a lot of the anti arguments im reading are perfectly valid. in this case its getting to be a bit difficult to ovjectively argue it. ive been victim of gay bashing (verbally and once physical) before i moved to new york, and even once or twice since ive lived here in some of the outer burroughs.

hate crime laws to me mean: someone somewhere is taking seriously a very real problem that was overlooked for hundreds of years. and its still a problem. Im curious, have any of you who are arguing against hate crime laws ever been victim of something like gay bashing? it can really change your view.

synovia - i really cant see... (Below threshold)

synovia - i really cant see this hate crime law as having some sort of "1984" subplot to get us to conform mentally. i DO see it as protection.

Some people earlier were saying having stronger retributions wouldnt make a criminal reconsider. Believe me it would. Pass a law that Pedophiles would be forced to undergo Castration and i garantee youd see a lot less of it. Have you honestly never stopped yourself from doing something because you knew it would have consequences??

Perhaps it would help to tu... (Below threshold)
Bat One:

Perhaps it would help to turn the question around a bit. For example,

Should a child rapist be sentenced to a lesser term in prison if his victim is black? How about if his victim is a boy rather than a girl?

Should someone who firebombs a nightclub and kills 4 people receive a lesser sentence if those 4 victims are straight, rather than gay?

How about this one: Should a group of rioting Muslim "youths" receive harsher sentences if the cars they burn belong to Jews instead of Catholics? Should the sentence be any less if the car owners are secular atheists?

I am well aware of the purpose or intent of hate crimes legislation, thank you., Jeff. But the fact of the matter is the criminalization of thought, for whatever smarmy, self-righteous purpose, is still one more unconscionable case of liberalism run amok... of the well-intended ends being used to justify a constitutionally intolerable means.

I was at Puzzles last nigh... (Below threshold)
Andrew Pollock:

I was at Puzzles last night.
The night before, walked in, sat down and asked if it was a gay bar. He then took out a hatchet; hitting two people in the head. As he was being subdued, he took out a gun and shot two men in the face (one is still is in critical condition - probably loosing an eye and being evaluated for brain damage). Another person, a mentally challenged young man of 22 (who was with his mother while she played pool with friends) was shot in the chest as he emerged from the bathroom. He crawled to his mother.
Don't we separate meditated and pre-meditated murder? Don't we sentence people differently due to the motive and circumstances of their behavior? If I kill someone with my car, doesn't the sentence vary due to whether it was an accident (ice on road), or I was drunk or if I intended to kill a stranger or if I had planned to kill my boss?
I understand peoples' concern that hate crime laws create a special class of victims, however, a crime that is motivated only by hate (for whatever group) raises the level of crime. These folks were peacefully congregated in a bar - the visceral attack - chopping at mens' heads with an ax, shooting people in the face - shows the malice of this young man.
For those white, straight men who feel that a special category is "unfair" consider being a minority in a hostile environment. Stretch your limits and wear a gay pride pin for a day at work, or to a conservative church or go to an African American political event alone. Broaden your minds. Experiment and prove me wrong. Hold hands with your buddy at a football game or put your arm around him and report back what it feels like to step out of your world.
God be with those poor men who lay damaged in the hospital today. God help us make a type of society where laws discourage this type (or any) attack.

In reference to spike's 8:2... (Below threshold)

In reference to spike's 8:28pm 2-2-06:

I'm very sorry that you've been a victim of gaybashing. I hope that the perpetrators were dealt with accordingly. However, I still do not believe that it is in the best interests of justice to set up special protected classes of people, even in a well-intentioned attempt to try to right wrongs that have been done in the past.

I agree that my views would probably be different if I had been the victim of this kind of thing. Then again, I'm a very vengeful sort of a person, and it's often occured to me that I'd want the death penalty for somebody who burgaled my house or kicked my dog. Law should be made through a more dispassionate process (or, as I think Mr. Justice Holmes said, good intentions make for bad law).

In regard to spike's comments about hate crimes laws being a deterent, perhaps they would be. But, then again, many people argue that the death penalty isn't a deterent to crime. Long prison sentences don't seem to be a good deterent, as witnessed by the hundreds of thousands of people who are serving long sentences at this very moment.

Andrew, I see your bull, an... (Below threshold)

Andrew, I see your bull, and I'll raise you.
Attend a teamster meeting in a Walmart shirt and W hat.
Show up at an anti-war rally with a kippa, prayer scarf and a "No land for peace" shirt.
Drop in on a democrat campaign rally in NYC or San Francisco with an NRA jacket.
Heck, just ride public transportation in the "blue cities" with any "right wing" attire. Then sit back and feel the love and tolerance.
However, whenever the contempt, distaste, distrust or dislike becomes physical or becomes discrimination, the law has been broken, and the offenders should be punished.
I can understand escalating the the severity of charges in the case of cross burning, swastika painting and the like, because vanadlism isn't the intent of those crimes. BUT, attempted murder and assault are already at the top of the charts. The kind of person that would go into a bar and have a rampage, or the kind that would shoot in a church or temple, is not going to be detered by tacking a few more years to their punishment.

bat one said "Should a chil... (Below threshold)

bat one said "Should a child rapist be sentenced to a lesser term in prison if his victim is black? How about if his victim is a boy rather than a girl?"

the answer is "if he does it only because it is a boy with malice to the gender then he shuold receive a longer term."

lets go so far as to say someone on senate reads this agrees, passes it around then they all decide "hey its not workin... lets abolish this law"

tommorow someone paints a giant swastika on my doors at work (as im in a jewish business) the worst he'll get is vandalism...you think thats seriously....OK? the only thing saying its not is that stupid little thing defining it as a "hate crime"

you have to go beyond idealism and look at it from a victims point of view. if your raped youll take rape laws a lot more seriously, same goes for hate crimes.

case in point your straight and get jumped for looking at some guys girlfriend it happens you move on (you might not undress too many chicks with your eyes from now on but your still basically yourself) you press charges, yada yada....

your gay and get attacked in the same way for just being gay, for many people just moving on isnt a possiblity. it damages a large part of your psyche, it creates fear, apprehension and a need to be "in the closet" the purpose of saying all this is to illustrate hate motivated crimes are usually particularly heinous in the damage it does to the individual. that being said the punishment should be that much more severe. but only if it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed a hate crime....a crime intended to terrorize a certain group into hiding.

You all seem so oblivious t... (Below threshold)

You all seem so oblivious to the fact you don't need to be gay to be the victim of a gay hate crime. Ex-gays, and heterosexuals are just as at risk. It is all about perception. They just need to think you are gay.

Hate crime laws send a clear message to people that this behavior is not acceptable.

If you still need more proof hate crime laws for gays are needed, you just need to look at the stats.

-gays are victimized at 6 times the overall rate.
-anti-gay gate crimes tend to be more violent than non biased crimes. In other words when they "think" you are gay they beat you more.

I could go on forever, but you seem to have you minds made up.

Randy, I wouldn't brag about your ad. It isn't something to be proud of, it is instead another attempt to dehumanize gays as less that you. I wish so much that in your heart you could see the damage and hurt you inflict on others, but you seem unwilling to see that truth. Maybe some day, you will see it. I can only hope for the best.






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