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
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) has been monitoring the situation involving the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Officer and Memphis Police Department Officer shot this afternoon in North Memphis, and made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, today presided at a hearing on “Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Americans,” less than two days after the killing of six Asian American women in the Atlanta suburbs.
The hearing focused on both historic systemic racism and the alarming increase in anti-Asian racist rhetoric and violence related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In his opening statement, Chairman Cohen said:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties today voted for, and the House passed, an extension of the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Congressman Cohen presided at the first hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in 36 years in May of 2019, and he has been a longtime and consistent supporter of gender equality.
In a floor speech today before the votes, Congressman Cohen said:
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, today participated in a Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing on “Controlled Substances: Federal Policies and Enforcement.” Congressman Cohen, a longtime member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, was an original cosponsor and voted for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which passed the House in December.
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today voted for and the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, to clarify and strengthen firearms transfer laws.
H.R. 8 requires a background check for every gun sale or transfer. The bill provides some specific commonsense exceptions such as allowing a person to give a gun as a gift to a family member; loaning a gun for hunting or target shooting; or temporarily transferring a gun for self-defense.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, tonight expressed deep satisfaction at the passage of the groundbreaking George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which he believes will help build trust between police departments and the communities they serve. The measure contains major elements of bills Congressman Cohen authored, including the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, the Police CAMERA Act, and Police Training and Independent Review Act.
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: