NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- After a man drove into a crowd protesting the nationalist rally on Saturday (Aug. 12) in Charlottesville, Virginia,
The fact that Arkansas is one of just a few states without a hate crime law is gaining a lot of attention.
“It's important for any state to make it absolutely clear that hate within it's borders but knowing that we are just one of five that don't have some kind of legislation on the books, I think that's striking and is something that should be resolved,” Rep. Greg Leding said.
Our lawmakers first took action in 2015 to make change to the state law after a shooting sparked in hate at a Charleston, South Carolina church where nine people were killed.
Representative Greg Leding of Fayetteville said he and another state senator began drafting legislation before the 2017 session, but the bill never left committee.
Leding said we need to make it clear to not just people, but also businesses and industries that hate has no place in Arkansas.
“When somebody is attacked out of hate the community around that victim, if it's somebody who is black or somebody who is Hispanic, Catholic or whatever, that whole community feels terrorized and that terror can lead to tensions between that community and other communities,” he said.
Senator Bart Hester of Cave Springs said there's already a federal hate crime law and says that's enough.
“Crime already by definition is a crime, it's already against the law to harm someone else so we're just adding it on,” Hester said.
And protecting certain groups could be a slippery slope.
“Should you have increased penalties for violence against elderly," Hester said. "Should you have increased penalties for violence against young. At what point do you stop. At some point you just have to say a crime is a crime and we are going to deal with it have the punishments accordingly.”
Leding said he hopes to see support when the hate crime bill is proposed in 2019. He said Arkansas sits among the states with the highest number of active hate groups.