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In response to reports that the shooter in yesterday’s Jersey City, New Jersey shooting that left six people dead, had published anti-Semitic posts online and targeted a Kosher deli in a Jewish neighborhood, Ernest Coverson, campaign manager for the End Gun Violence Campaign at Amnesty International USA, said: 

“No one should walk down the street, enter their place of worship or their local grocery store, or gather in peace with their community in fear that they will be targeted by gun violence because of who they are. The violence in Jersey City is, sadly, yet another example of the hate on the rise in our world, and in our country now, often incited by political leaders who use hate to drum up their base.

“We have seen all around the world how racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are being used to further discrimination against already marginalized communities. The failure to hold accountable those who commit, encourage or turn a blind eye to this hateful rhetoric, including political leaders like Donald Trump, worsen the problem. With virtually unfettered access to guns in the U.S., our leaders must do more to speak out against hate, gun violence and divisiveness in our communities- which endanger public safety and put us all at risk. 

“The epidemic of gun violence in American society amounts to nothing less than a human rights crisis. Our government is failing in their responsibility to ensure that all of us are able to live freely, regardless of race, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

Background

A report by Amnesty International, “In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis” examined how all aspects of American life have been compromised in some way by the unfettered access to guns, with no attempts at meaningful national regulation.

There is no federal law prohibiting someone convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from buying a gun. 

Over 8,500 hate crimes per year, or 23 every day, involve a gun.

Individuals at the intersection of several identities may endure a higher risk: For example, Pulse victims were predominantly Latinx, and transgender women of color are disproportionately at risk of being shot. 

According to FBI data from 2017, hate crimes motivated by religious bias accounted for 1,679 offenses reported by law enforcement. A breakdown of the bias motivation of religious-biased offenses showed that 58.1 percent were anti-Jewish. It’s important to note that this data is not all-encompassing, but rather a reflection of hate violence that was first reported by victims to state or local authorities, then voluntarily reported to the FBI by state or local authorities, and only then categorized as a hate crime by the FBI. Some communities may also choose not to report hate-motivated violence due to a distrust or fear of law enforcement, so these numbers may in fact be much higher. 

Amnesty International has also seen disturbingly sharp rises in anti-Semitism in France and Germany, including distressing images of swastikas daubed across graves in Jewish cemeteries in Herrlisheim, Quatzenheim, and Westhoffen in eastern France.

Hate-motivated gun violence is not limited to gun deaths or injury. Violent extremists use guns to threaten and intimidate marginalized communities. In doing so, they inflict serious harm without pulling the trigger.

Legislation won’t prevent all hate-motivated gun violence, but there are several bills that—if passed—would help keep guns out of the people who commit hate crimes. Amnesty International USA has been calling for passage of the Disarm Hate Act of 2019, the Background Check Expansion Act of 2019, and the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019.

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