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Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 05.21.12

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Griffith Fights for Gun Rights

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is very explicit: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." I stand by this Amendment; and I wholeheartedly support it. I recently introduced legislation (H.R. 4269), which would strengthen federal protections for law abiding Americans traveling with firearms.

In 1986, Congress passed the Firearms Owners' Protection Act (FOPA). This bill included protections for individuals transporting firearms between jurisdictions where they are legally allowed to have them. While most states comply with FOPA's "safe passage' provision, some states continue to harass and detain travelers who are abiding by federal law. For instance, the National Rifle Association cites some examples:

In 2004, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) arrested John Torraco at LaGuardia Airport for possession of a firearm. Torraco, an attorney and law professor, had stored his legally owned unloaded handgun in his checked luggage. However, when he declared the firearm to the counter agent (as required by federal law), he was arrested and charged with possession of an unlicensed handgun.

In 2005, William Winstanley, a New York state resident, was detained at JFK International Airport when he attempted to check a handgun in his luggage, again in compliance with the requirements of § 926A. Winstanley was not arrested, but his travel was delayed for several days while he proved that he was in compliance with federal law.

In 2007, Greg Revell, a Utah resident, was flying through Newark Liberty International Airport to his final destination in Pennsylvania. However, his flight into New Jersey was late, which caused him to miss his connecting flight. Revell was forced to collect his baggage and spend the night in a Newark hotel. When he attempted to recheck his baggage the following morning, he declared the unloaded handgun to the counter agent. PAPD officers arrested Revell for illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition under New Jersey law. Revell spent three days in jail before he was able to make bail.

My bipartisan bill -- endorsed by the NRA -- puts an end to these practices and makes it clear that the rights of American citizens can no longer be ignored. If you're legally transporting your firearm, stopping overnight, filling up at the gas station, or stopping for an emergency, you are protected. The legal burden of proving a violation now falls to the states, and provides for the possibility of compensation for those unlawfully prosecuted.

Griffith Stands for Liberty

Last week, the House of Representatives debated the National Defense Authorization Act, commonly referred to as NDAA. While there are many good provisions in this bill, there are also a few questionable ones. Under one interpretation, this bill would permit the U.S. military to detain American citizens on American soil. Amendments which I believe would have fixed the problem were not included in the final bill, and I could not support it.

Some of my colleagues disagree with me on this interpretation. But, when language isn't absolutely clear, and there is an issue of liberty for U.S. citizens, I choose to err on the side of liberty. I do not believe the military should be able to exercise the power of detention at home against U.S. citizens.

Griffith Applauds Pepper Spray Pilot Program for Prisons

Lastly, I was very pleased to learn that our efforts to protect prison guards in federal prisons produced results. I've been involved in trying to launch a pilot program that would allow certain prison guards to carry pepper spray in federal prisons. I toured the U.S. Penitentiary (USP) facility in Lee County; met with the USP prison guards on several occasions; signed on to legislation supporting the pilot program; wrote a letter to other Members of Congress to support this program; and furnished questions to another Member of Congress to ask the BOP director about a pilot program.

Last week, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) finally allowed for a pepper spray pilot program to go forward. I want to commend the brave prison guards at the USP in Lee County for their persistent efforts in applying pressure to the BOP director to help him finally see the validity of this pilot program.

As you all may remember, on October 21, 2011, USP Lee Correctional Officer Adam Delp was viciously assaulted by an inmate with an improvised weapon. Carrying only a radio, Officer Delp had nothing to defend himself during the attack. Officer Delp suffered multiple wounds to his face before other correctional officers were able to help restrain the attacker. Fortunately, Officer Delp's injuries were not life threatening, but I worry that future incidents could result in more tragic outcomes.

While we wait for the details of the pilot program to unfold, I'm glad to see this important first step has been taken to better protect our federal prison guards. I sincerely hope that pepper spray will improve the chances of preventing injuries to prison guards similar to those suffered by Officer Delp.


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