Congressman Cohen serves on the House Judiciary Committee, and is the Chairman of the Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues including crime, voting rights and Constitutional concerns.
Fighting Crime and Seeking Justice
Congressman Cohen offered an amendment to a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package to increase funding by $4 million for programs to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits. The amendment was adopted by the House of Representatives on September 12, 2017, and the package containing it was approved the House of Representatives on September 14, 2017. Ultimately, $2.5 million of this increase was enacted into law in the final package adopted in 2018. The amendment built upon similar amendments offered by Congressman Cohen that have also been enacted into law. In 2014, an amendment by Congressman Cohen increased funding by $5 million. In 2015, an amendment by Congressman Cohen increased funding by an additional $4 million. Including the increase prompted by Congressman Cohen’s most recent amendment, the program has seen an overall increase from $36 million to $47.5 million since 2014 – a nearly 32% increase.
Congressman Cohen is a cosponsor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act to require a background check for nearly every gun sale or transfer, and a cosponsor of the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1112) to close the loophole that allowed the shooter in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina to obtain a gun. The Brady Act mandates criminal background checks for all gun sales at licensed firearm dealers through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). While the vast majority of checks are processed within minutes, if NICS has not completed its background check after three days, the dealer is allowed to proceed with the sale. The Enhanced Background Checks Act allows for more time to complete the background check.
To help reduce gun violence, Congressman Cohen has cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban which prohibits the sale, transfer, production, and importation of: semi-automatic rifles and pistols with a military-style feature that can accept a detachable magazine, semi-automatic rifles with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds, semi-automatic shotguns with a military-style feature, any ammunition feeding device that can hold more than 10 rounds, and 205 specifically-named and listed firearms. He has also cosponsored the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act which prohibits the sale of bump stocks, which modify semi-automatic rifles to replicate the rate of fire of a fully automatic weapon. Bump stocks were added to weapons used by the Mandalay Bay Hotel shooter. This legislation bans the possession of any fire arms accessory that accelerates the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle.
The Congressman is a cosponsor of the Raise the Age Act to prohibit the licensing, selling or delivering certain semiautomatic weapons to persons under 21 years of age. The bill allows for exceptions for individuals who are members of the Armed Forces on active duty, or a full-time government employee whose official duties requires the carrying of a firearm.
Congressman Cohen is a cosponsor of the Accidental Firearms Transfers Reporting Act to require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to report the number of guns transferred as a result of a failure to complete a background check within three days, as well as what occurred after it was discovered that someone received a gun who was ineligible to have received it, a cosponsor of a resolution to establish a Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, and a cosponsor of the Gun Violence Research Act to give the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the authority to research the causes injuries due to gun violence as well as ways to prevent them. It will also improve the National Violent Death Reporting System and enable health care providers to report threats of violence. It also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress on the effects of gun violence on mental health in minority communities.
Congressman Cohen is also a cosponsor of the Buyback our Safety Act to authorize $15 million over 5 years to establish a new matching grant at the Department of Justice to bolster local gun buyback initiatives, and the End Purchase of Firearms by Dangerous Individuals Act to require that all 50 states provide information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on individuals who are committed to a mental institution or who express a threat of violence to a mental health professional.
To reduce drunk driving deaths, Congressman Cohen introduced the DUI Reporting Act. This bipartisan bill would requires driving under the influence (DUI) arrests to be reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database as a condition of receipt of full Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant funding, to stop repeat DUI offenders from being mistakenly charged as “first-time” offenders.
Congressman Cohen is cosponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The legislation authorizes grants to develop and enforce firearm surrender policies, survivor safety and legal assistance to dependent children in appropriate circumstances. It also improves services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, extends the Rape Prevention and Education grant program, expands grants to help public health officials increase capacity for early childhood programs to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, expands housing protections for survivors, and expands firearms laws to prohibit persons convicted of dating violence and stalking from possessing firearms.
More on Crime
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security today questioned expert witnesses in a hearing on “The Rise of Domestic Terrorism in America.”
During his five minutes questioning expert witnesses, Congressman Cohen said the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters and white nationalists was just the most recent example of the phenomenon that has been increasing in recent years. He said:
WASHINGTON -- Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Joe Wilson (SC-02) today introduced the Holding Russia Accountable for Malign Activities Act in response to the poisoning and baseless jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and other crimes against political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that Russian opposition leader Navalny was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent which can only be used by the Russian Federation.
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced the Civil Rights Legacy Protection Act to regulate and reinforce protections for civil rights memorials and monuments across the United States by establishing federal penalties against vandalism of these sites, similar to the existing safeguards in place for the vandalism of veterans’ memorials. It would also direct the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights to create a list of monuments and memorials that should be protected.
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and its Crime Subcommittee, today announced a $488,594 grant to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to discourage gang membership and address the traumas associated with exposure to gang violence.
Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today announced Shelby County will receive a $783,368 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the Department of Justice to support local law enforcement and crime prevention initiatives.
Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
“I’m pleased to announce this funding, which will go toward local law enforcement priorities and support programs to prevent crime.”
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, this evening wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking that Memphis federal law enforcement officials be included in the Justice Department’s body-worn camera pilot program. The request comes days after U.S. Marshals shot a Memphis teenager in an incident in which cameras were not in use.
Congressman Cohen’s letter reads in part:
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today released a statement in response to the recent killings of African Americans in rural southeast Georgia, Louisville, and Minneapolis:
Washington, D.C. –Today, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Congressman Bennie Thompson introduced the Civil Rights Legacy Protection Act, which would reinforce protections for civil rights memorials and monuments across the United States.
Washington, D.C. –Today, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned expert witnesses at a Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on the challenges and opportunities for former prisoners’ reentry into society.
Following the hearing Congressman Cohen provided the following statement: