A hero was born on the night of Nov. 19 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Richard M. Fierro, a 15-year military veteran with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, was inside a gay nightclub when he heard gunfire. Instead of heading for an exit, Fierro found the suspect, tackled him to the floor and took away a weapon.

The heroics were too late to save the lives of five people gunned down by the 22-year-old suspected shooter, who now faces murder as well as bias-motivated charges.

Commonly known as hate crimes, these laws are difficult to prosecute, in part because of their narrow legal definition, which often requires prosecutors to prove a suspect’s state of mind beyond a reasonable doubt.

Law professor Jeannine Bell explains the challenges – and why the need for heroes like Fierro still exists.

Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

Club Q co-owners Nic Grzecka, left, and Matthew Haynes listen during a police news conference on Nov. 21, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Suspect in the Colorado LGBTQ shootings faces hate crimes charges – what exactly are they?

Jeannine Bell, Loyola University Chicago

Bias-motivated attacks became a distinct crime in the 1980s. But police investigate only a fraction of the roughly 200,000 hate crimes reported each year – and even fewer ever make it to court.

An anti-abortion activist prays in front of a Planned Parenthood center in Philadelphia in September 2022. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Abortion rights referendums are winning – with state-by-state battles over rights replacing national debate

Rachel Rebouche, Temple University

Abortion referendums in such states as California and Kentucky provide a way to protect abortion rights at the state level – but voting limitations could undermine the power of the ballot box.

Fans watch the World Cup opening match between Qatar and Ecuador on Nov. 20, 2022, in Doha. Clive Brunskili/Getty Images

The World Cup puts the spotlight on Qatar, but also brings attention to its human rights record and politics

David Mednicoff, UMass Amherst

Migrant workers’ rights are indeed an ongoing issue in Qatar – but the country has passed reforms to improve workers’ rights, and it isn’t the only issue to define Qatar.

Rampage at Virginia Walmart follows upward trend in supermarket gun attacks – here’s what we know about retail mass shooters

Jillian Peterson, Hamline University ; James Densley, Metropolitan State University

At least six people have been killed in an attack at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. It happened amid a surge of mass shootings in the U.S.

Midterm election results reflect the hodgepodge of US voters, not the endorsement or repudiation of a candidate’s or party’s agenda

Robert B. Talisse, Vanderbilt University

Lots has been said about the 2022 US midterm elections. But a scholar of democracy says there’s really only one conclusion that can be made about how voters behaved.

COP27’s ‘loss and damage’ fund for developing countries could be a breakthrough – or another empty climate promise

Adil Najam, Boston University

It’s a landmark agreement, acknowledging for the first time that wealthy countries bear some responsibility to help. But it leaves many unanswered questions.

Nancy Pelosi was the key Democratic messenger of her generation – passing the torch will empower younger leadership

Gerald Warburg, University of Virginia

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced she will step aside from senior leadership. It could lead to generational change in the Democratic Party.

Red flag laws and the Colorado LGBTQ club shooting – questions over whether state’s protection order could have prevented tragedy

Alex McCourt, Johns Hopkins University

Colorado is one of 19 states that have laws in place to prevent individuals believed to pose a threat from obtaining guns. But a preventive order needs to be petitioned before it can be issued.

Railroad unions and their employers at an impasse: Freight-halting strikes are rare, and this would be the first in 3 decades

Erik Loomis, University of Rhode Island

Some rail unions are resisting government pressure to accept a new employment contract. Stoppages could derail the economy, but history suggests the authorities will keep the trains running.

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