e-news 3/02/18

Fixing Background Checks is a Start

Attacking Online Human Trafficking

Busy Week in Washington- Veterans, Medical Research, Health

Salute: Wayne’s Schuyler-Colfax Middle School


Fixing Background Checks is a Start

In the wake of another horrific attack on innocent school children and teachers, this one in Florida, it is time for tough questions: How could this have happened again? What system failures occurred here? How can we correct them? What can we do to make our schools safer?

Yes, the analysis is underway.  But we can act now.   

As a start, Congress should immediately take up and pass the bipartisan “Fix NICS Act” (National Criminal Instate Background Check System (NICS) to strengthen our nation’s background check system and prevent gun violence before it occurs.  I joined several of my House colleagues last week in sending a letter to Speaker Ryan asking him to schedule a vote on the bipartisan “Fix NICS,” H.R. 4434, bill as soon as possible. 

The “Fix NICS” bill would reauthorize and improve the National Criminal Instate Background Check System (NICS). 

Let’s face it: a background check is only as good as the records in the database.  This bill requires that compliance certification measures be put in place and that agencies, such as the FBI or local law enforcement, would be penalized for not reporting precise information to the NICS. 

Accurate and timely background checks must be the first line of defense in our national efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and persons who are dangerously mentally ill.  Therefore, a critically important component is the “sharing of mental health and criminal record information between state and local agencies and the federal background check database.”

It also goes without saying that we should be studying and supporting common-sense ways to make our schools safer for our children through increased security measures - metal detectors, lock-down policies, armed guards, etc.   

But other institutions are also at risk.  That is why I have directed the Appropriations Committee to double the size of the Non-Profit Security Grant program in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.  This program provides funding support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations, many being faith-based, that are at high risk of attack.  

And while Congress has enacted sweeping mental health reform, these improvements still have a ways to go before they are fully implemented.  We need to carefully, and promptly, examine system failures and determine if additional changes are needed.

I have been impressed by the determination of the students who have mobilized to petition their government for real change.  These young people are passionate about this cause and we will work to find common ground on solutions that can help prevent this senseless violence.

The “Fix NICS” bill is another important step!

Read the text of the bill here:

Attacking Online Human Trafficking

The House acted to fight against human trafficking again this week: we passed legislation that I had previously cosponsored, H.R. 1865, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.”  This legislation enhances criminal penalties for online websites that facilitate sex trafficking.

Current law prevents state prosecutors and victims from bringing cases against these websites. H.R. 1865 would allow law enforcement authorities and prosecutors in the states to investigate and prosecute people who run or own websites that facilitate sex trafficking using state criminal statutes that prohibit sex trafficking or sexual exploitation of children.         

We also approved the Walters Amendment which would clarify that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not limit trafficking victims from seeking their day in court.

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing organized crime activity in the United States, making around $32 billion a year for criminals while destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Currently, there are at least 105,000 children in America that are victims of human trafficking. Just a few years ago, 70% of child sex trafficking victims were sold online.

Sex trafficking has no place in any society, and bad actors who run these websites are criminals who belong in prison. Congress never intended for Section 230 to give a free pass to anyone who exploits America’s children.  Combined, H.R. 1865 and the Walters amendment give U.S. law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and victims the tools they need to help dismantle the human trafficking trade in the United States.

For more information on H.R. 1865, please visit here.

Busy Week in Washington: Veterans, Medical Research, Health

Among the many groups that visited my office this week:

I met with leaders of the New Jersey American Legion.  They presented their 2018 Legislative Agenda and provided me with another update on issues affecting our Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare centers in Lyons, East Orange and our newest facility in Sussex County.  I look forward to meeting with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) next week!

Rare Disease Legislative Advocates from Morristown, Butler, Mendham and Nutley briefed me on the need for more funding and investments in research and prevention as well as sustaining support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)! Currently, there are fewer than 400 approved treatments for 7,000 rare diseases affecting more than 30 million Americans. More than 80% of rare diseases are considered ultra-rare, affecting fewer than 6,000 people, some diseases affect fewer than 100.

I also met with Morris County advocates from ZERO: the End Prostate Cancer campaign. I have long supported programs to increase prostate cancer awareness, screening and research and I appreciated their update on research developments!

Salute: to the students, faculty and staff at Schuyler-Colfax Middle School in Wayne who are participating in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Pennies for Patients program. Before this year, the school had raised just over $74,000 to help find a cure for blood cancers. This year, they aim to raise $25,000 and earn a research grant named after the school.  For the past few weeks, students have collected money in homerooms and in online donations.