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election 2017

Kansas legislators divided on hate crime legislation

Associated Press - January 31, 2015 2:33 pm

The last of five defendants in the death of a Pittsburg State University student has been sentenced.

The fatal shooting of three people last year outside a Jewish community center and retirement complex in Overland Park is renewing calls for tougher hate crime legislation.

A bill currently being discussed in the Kansas legislature would double the sentences for those convicted of a hate crime. Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, said the shootings reinforce the need for harsher punishments against those who are motivated by prejudice. But, opponents of the legislation are skeptical that increased penalties will deter such criminals.

Kansas police departments reported an average of 81 hate crimes per year from 2003 to 2013, although a Justice Department study suggests that such crimes often go unreported and the true numbers could me much higher.