A federal gun control measure introduced Monday with the intention of preventing hate crimes became unexpectedly timely in the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said he’d been working on the legislation for months and had planned to introduce it later this week, but decided to submit it Monday after the attack by an ISIS-pledged man in Florida claimed at least 49 lives at the Pulse nightclub.
The bill would prevent those who’ve been convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing firearms, Casey said, with the goal of preventing gun violence fueled by hatred of eight protected classes, which include sexual orientation, gender and gender identity along with race, religion and national origin.
“We want to make sure that that problem is contained when that person has been convicted of a misdemeanor,” Casey said.
Casey said he realized the measure would need the support of Republicans in a GOP-controlled Congress, and even then, it would be at least a few months before the bill could realistically be passed. But he said he thinks consensus is building for “common-sense gun reform.”
“The idea that we can do nothing about this and no law will change it, no policy will change it is ridiculous,” Casey said. “We’ve never had that point of view as Americans.”
“The worst thing we could do is to just give in to the prevailing wisdom and say, ‘Well, nothing will change, so we’ll just move on to another topic,’” Casey added. “We have to stay on this task. We have to stay focused.”
Casey also called on federal lawmakers to adopt other gun reforms, including: a ban on “military-style” weapons; a federal background check system; a limit on firearms magazine sizes; and a prohibition on buying guns for anyone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was questioned twice by the FBI for potential connections to terrorists, but had been taken off the bureau’s watch list, according to the Los Angeles Times.