Freedom to Serve Act Introduced to Protect Legislators

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us-flagCongresswoman Laura Richardson introduced legislation to protect Members of Congress and their constituents from potentially violent situations at scheduled events where an elected representative is engaging in official acts, representational duties, or campaign activity.

Specifically, the “Freedom to Serve Without Fear” Act, would make it unlawful for any person to knowingly carry a firearm in, or within 100 feet of an entrance to, or exit from, a building or structure where the person knows that a Member of Congress is performing an official and representational duty or engaging in campaign activity as a candidate for election for Federal, State or local office.  A violation would be punishable by ten years imprisonment and certain limited exceptions to the law would exist for law enforcement officials and others.

“The right of our citizens and elected officials to peaceably assemble and engage in public discourse is a central tenant and the lifeblood of a vibrant representative democracy,” said Congresswoman Richardson. “No individual should have to fear for their safety when attending a political event in their community, be they an elected official like my friend and colleague Gabrielle Giffords or someone just developing a love for politics like young nine year old Christina Taylor-Green.  We owe it to the recent victims, both those we lost and those still fighting to survive, as well as their loved ones, to do all that we can to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.”

The bill comes in the wake of the devastating events of January 8, 2011, in which a gunman opened fire during a political event in Arizona, leaving six dead and injuring 14, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  In addition, there has been a threefold increase in recent months in the number of reported threats against members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate.

The threats to public engagement are not just a recent trend.  During the summer of 2009, there were multiple cases of persons carrying firearms outside of venues at which the President of the United States was holding meetings and official events. In one instance, a man carried an AR-15 automatic assault rifle and a sidearm. In another instance occurring hours before a presidential town hall a week earlier, a man was arrested for breaching a security perimeter at the event’s location and was found to be in possession of an unlicensed and loaded handgun.

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