RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- State lawmakers are ramping up calls for stronger hate crime legislation following this past weekend's deadly mass shooting in El Paso.
"It would be a good way to say in a bipartisan manner if you take attack somebody because of their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, an expanded list of hate crimes, you're going to have much stiffer penalties in North Carolina," said state Sen. Wiley Nickel, one of the sponsors of SB 209.
Senate Bill 209, along with its counterpart HB 312, would enhance penalties for hate crimes, and allow victims and their immediate family members to pursue civil cases against offenders.
"We need better data, and it would also include better training for the police to prevent this kind of stuff," Nickel explained.
That would be achieved through an SBI hate crime statistics database the bill would provide funding for.
According to FBI hate crime statistics, there were 166 hate crimes in North Carolina in 2017, a 12% increase compared to 2016.
The proposal is supported by Dr. Mohammed Abu-Salha, whose two daughters and son-in-law were murdered in Chapel Hill in 2015. The case was investigated by federal authorities as a hate crime.
"I identify with (the El Paso) victims and I believe that it should be in this case treated as a terrorist act," Abu-Salha said.
In April, he addressed Congress about hate crimes and white supremacy.
"Though it's always painful, it's a duty to talk and tell truth. And like my children lived for their country, we are doing what is positive for this country," said Abu-Salha.
Both bills were presented back in March, but are still in committee. Sen. Nickel said he has received some private support from Republican counterparts, but not from Republican leadership.
In the House, Rep. Nasif Majeed is filing a discharge petition to attempt to force HB 312 to the floor.
ABC11 reached out to Senate President Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore for comments on SB 209 and HB 312; neither have responded as of early Friday evening.
NC lawmakers renew calls for stronger hate crime legislation following El Paso shooting
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