Republican representative Louis Gohmert of Texas has stated that the El Paso shooter should not be prosecuted under federal hate crimes laws. He added that if that happens it could lead to pastors being put in prison.
Gohmert was being interviewed by a local news station where the host mentioned that mass shootings were being “politicized.”
Gohmert said that he was particularly distraught that people were calling for the El Paso shooter to face hate crimes charges, even though he allegedly killed at least 22 people at a Walmart because he hated Hispanic people.
“There is no death penalty under federal [hate crimes] law,” Gohmert said,
He went on to state that the real reason he doesn’t want the Matthew Shepard Act used against the El Paso shooter is that he believes “that pastors who don’t like LGBTQ people are pretty much indistinguishable from the El Paso shooter.”
“So all of this screaming and yelling we need to punish him for hate crimes, you know, that’s just going to be something used to lock up preachers someday,” he said.
Conservatives often argue that hate speech is being used to punish otherwise legal speech. They believe that the threat of a pastor being put in jail for condemning homosexuality is supposed to turn people against hate crimes laws. However, hate crimes and hate speech are two very different things. A hate crime is something that is otherwise a crime that was motivated by bias, whereas hate speech does not involve an underlying violent or property of a crime.
So the bottom line is that unless the preachers Gohmert is worried about are committing crimes, they don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to hate crimes laws.
The man who has confessed to the killing of killing 22 people and injuring 26 others in El Paso will most likely face hate crime charges in addition to capital murder charges, officials said.
Authorities discovered a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto which was posted to the website 8chan shortly before the shootings. 8chan is a well- known hub for white nationalists. It is believed the 21-year-old gunman posted the manifesto which makes it a “nexus to a potential hate crime.”
In the four-page manifesto is threats against immigrants and Hispanics. In the document, immigrants are blamed for taking away jobs and blending the culture of the U.S.
Federal authorities are treating the shooting as a case of domestic terrorism because the shooting “appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least,” according to the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas, John Bash.