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 (TN-09), a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, provided opening remarks at a hearing on “Responding to Hate Crimes: The Role of Religious Actors.”
In the hearing, Congressman Cohen said:
“We all need to take religion and use it for good and find common purposes, common values, and not use it to divide us.”
Find the Congressman’s full remarks here.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, today questioned witnesses at a hearing on “Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System.”
During the question-and-answer session, Congressman Cohen asked Jesselyn McCurdy, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, about private prisons and their impact.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Congresswoman Val Demings (FL-10) today introduced the Safer Streets Act, which would create a new grant program to support local communities with high rates of violent crime. Afterward, Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
“The Safer Streets Act is intended to provide additional funding to address violent crime in places where the rate is significantly above the national average – places like Memphis. I’m pleased my colleague Val Demings, the former Chief of Police of Orlando, joins me in introducing the measure.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, today questioned expert witnesses on marijuana policy at a hearing on “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.”
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today joined 67 House Members in asking President Trump to demand the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. Acosta was the U.S. Attorney for South Florida when he secretly arranged an extremely lenient plea agreement for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein after he was charged with trafficking underage girls. Epstein was recently indicted on similar charges in New York.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today voted to move H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, to the House floor. The measure, named for a 14-year-old Chicago youth named Emmett Till, who was lynched outside Money, Mississippi, in 1955, would make lynching a federal hate crime. Congressman Cohen spoke in favor of the measure before the voice vote. See those remarks here.
Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) wrote to Attorney General William Barr Thursday asking him to investigate the recent fire at the Highlander Education and Research Center in New Market, Tennessee, for possible violations of federal law. Press accounts indicate a racist symbol, identical to one used by the mass murderer of mosque worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, was spray-painted at the sight of the Highlander fire. See the full letter here.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today voted for, and the House passed, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), which preserves and improves protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The vote was 263 to 158.
Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Tennessee lawmaker has introduced a bill that would change the way law enforcement across the country reports DUI arrests.
The DUI Reporting Act would harmonize law enforcement reporting of DUI arrests, allowing police officers anywhere immediate access to the latest data, including pending cases, during traffic stops.
“Repeat offenders are the problems, and repeat offenders need to be known and charged that way,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee. “They need to get some guaranteed jail time and guaranteed treatment to protect the driving public.”