NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Do We Need More Hate Crime Laws?

November 23, 1998

A number of critics are questioning the need for more hate crime laws, which President Clinton and Attorney General Reno are urging Congress to pass in the form of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The law would expand the FBI's power to investigate crimes against homosexuals, women and the disabled; crimes based on race and religion are already covered.

But many wonder why they are needed.

  • They represent a departure from individual responsibility and equality under law.
  • They will burden the FBI without helping bringing criminals to justice -- and they'll increase Washington's intrusion into local law enforcement.
  • States already vigorously prosecute murderers, no matter who the victims are -- including Wyoming, where the murder of a homosexual college student set off the most recent reports of a hate crime "epidemic."

Another problem is the lack of solid data on the number of hate crimes.

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 21 people were murdered in 1996 because they were homosexuals -- but the FBI put the number at two.
  • But law professors James Jacobs and Kimberly Potter argue the FBI's data "are all but useless for discerning trends, because of the variation in the number of states and police departments reporting."
  • For example, the feds reported 8,759 hate crimes in 1996, up from 4,500 in 1991.
  • But the number of agencies reporting hate crimes also went up, from 32 states in 1991 to 49 states in 1996.

Jacobs and Potter report that while hate may spark vandalism or intimidation, very few homicides are motivated by bias.

Source: Editorial, "Hate Crimes, Thought Police?" Investor's Business Daily, November 23, 1998.


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