Following New Zealand Mosque Shooting, NC bill would strengthen punishment for hate crimes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) -- Charlotte Muslims and state lawmakers are calling for an end to attacks in all houses of worship following the New Zealand mosque mass shooting.

Representatives are putting forth potential legislation that, if passed, would increase the punishment for hate crimes.

House Bill 312 and Senate Bill 209, known as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, strengthen hate crime punishments. The bill would also require the State Bureau of Investigations to create a hate crime statistic database.

Charlotte is home to roughly 20,000 practicing Muslims. Rose Hamid is one of them. She could not help but think of the dozens of Muslims killed and injured in the New Zealand Mosque Shooting on her way to Friday prayers.

"It hit really close to home that it was Muslims praying at Friday prayers. The feelings I had there were the same feelings I had when I heard what happened in Pittsburgh in the synagogue and what happened in Charleston, SC at the church," said Hamid. "It's not a Muslim problem, it's an everywhere problem." 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has also spoken out about the attacks, calling for an end to hate speech. 

"I think we all have to do a better job not tolerating language that is dehumanizing," Stein said. "When you talk like that and foster that kind of hate, it spreads like a cancer. Instead we have to come together and embrace each other. These kinds of attacks, we have to stop them."

H.B. 312  and S.B. 209 have already passed their first readings in the N.C. House and Senate.

"For every confused or misunderstood person, I think there's a person that has love and compassion in their hearts and that gives us strength and that gives us hope."