Police shootings are driving a surge in 'Blue Lives Matter' bills

Louisiana recently became the first state to enact a law that treats attacks on cops like hate crimes, and other states are now looking to follow suit.
July 18, 2016, 6:04pm
Photo by LM Otero/AP

Earlier this year, Louisiana became the first state to pass a "Blue Lives Matter" bill, creating a law that treats attacks on cops like hate crimes. Police officers in the state are now a protected class alongside vulnerable minorities who may face discrimination and harassment based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

In the wake of recent shootings that targeted cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge, lawmakers in other states are looking to follow suit.

Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, announced his bill just one day after a gunman opened fire on police officers in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest, killing five and wounding nine. Baxley is running for a senate seat, and says passing Blue Lives Matter legislation is his top priority.

"If this bill passes, if you attack one of our first responders, you will be subject to an additional charge of a hate crime and receive up to 5 years of additional sentence," Baxley told local broadcaster KXTV.

Wisconsin lawmaker Representative David Steffen also floated a Blue Lives Matter bill after the shooting in Dallas. "This legislation sends a clear message that the despicable attacks we've seen against officers throughout the country will not be tolerated in Wisconsin," Steffen said in a statement.

Related: Everything we know so far about the shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge

One day before the shooting in Dallas, Representative Kevin Bratcher in Kentucky introduced a bill modeled on the Louisiana legislation. Killing a police officer is already a capital offense in Kentucky, but Bratcher said those who attack first responders "need to be ready to face the full brunt of the law."

Lawmakers in at least nine other states and at the federal level have introduced similar proposals.

"Blue Lives Matter" started as a counter-slogan that frames the Black Lives Matter movement as adversarial in nature. Some police advocates argue that Black Lives Matter has fostered an anti-law enforcement climate that encourages violence against cops.

DeRay Mckesson, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, condemned Sunday's shooting in Baton Rouge, where a gunman killed three law enforcement officers and injured three more. "The movement began as a call to end violence.That call remains," Mckesson told the New York Times.

Critics of Blue Lives Matter laws argue that the measures weaken the impact of the Hate Crimes Act. After Louisiana enacted its law in late May, Allison Padilla-Goodman, a regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, told CNN her organization was "not happy."

"Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable," she said.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen