|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 9.16.13
Monday, September 16, 2013 â€“
Government Spying â€“ An Update
In early July, I joined with Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) and fourteen other Members of Congress in filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of a motion to disclose Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court) secret opinions interpreting Section 215 of the Patriot Act. I am pleased to report that the FISA court recently ordered that the Justice Department (DOJ) begin a declassification review of relevant opinions, giving DOJ until October 4 to identify related documents.
For the past twelve weeks, I have been trying to obtain FISA court opinions discussed in the press, and have not been able to get full access to them. I am pleased that the FISA court appears to recognize the need for increased transparency when it comes to the governmentâ€™s surveillance program, and look forward to reviewing these opinions.
No More NECCs
As we approach the anniversary of the fungal meningitis outbreak that devastated families in Southwest Virginia and across the nation, it is vital for Congress to take action to prevent another public health crisis. On Thursday, September 12, after many months of work, I joined with two of my colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee â€“ Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) â€“ in introducing H.R. 3089, the Compounding Clarity Act, which would prevent another New England Compounding Center (NECC)-type outbreak from occurring. The text of our bipartisan proposal can be found on my website, I appreciate Congressman Green and Congresswoman DeGette for their partnership and dedication, and look forward to our continued work on this issue. As the legislative process continues, I will keep you informed.
LEGO, Bubble, & Pop Tart Guns, NRA T-Shirtsâ€¦ and School Suspensions??
My seven- and six-year-old boys take great delight when one of their McDonaldâ€™s Chicken McNuggets comes in the shape of a gun. There also have been instances in which my six-year-old has taken a bite out of his Pop Tart and has taken aim at his seven-year-old brother with his Pop Tart gun. This doesnâ€™t bother me. I donâ€™t think they will grow up to become gun-toting hoodlums or terrorists because of it.
But do you remember hearing of the Massachusetts five-year-old who faced school suspension after having built a gun out of LEGO building blocks? Or the young boy from Maryland who, in trying to form a mountain out of his strawberry breakfast pastry, was suspended from school for two days when a teacher instead thought the pastry looked like a gun? There also was the young girl from Pennsylvania suspended after talking about her â€śHello Kittyâ€ť bubble gun, and the West Virginia eighth-grader who was arrested after refusing to take off his National Rifle Association t-shirt while at school.
Of course, it is essential that our students have a safe learning environment. However, the strict application of some schoolsâ€™ â€śzero toleranceâ€ť policies in situations where there is no viable threat to safety may needlessly stifle childrenâ€™s creativity and deter harmless play. Old fashioned common sense shouldnâ€™t be completely discarded.
After hearing from constituents on this issue, I have reviewed and cosponsored H.R. 2625, the Student Protection Act, which would withhold federal funding from schools that punish a student for â€śbrandishing a pastry or other food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a gun; possession of a toy gun which is two inches or less; possession of a toy gun made of plastic snap together building blocks; using a finger or hand to simulate a gun; vocalizing imaginary firearms or munitions; wearing a T-shirt that supports Second Amendment rights; drawing a picture of, or possessing an image of, a firearm; or using a pencil, pen or other writing utensil to simulate a firearm.â€ť
In this country, instead of spending our energy being upset about children playing, we need to focus on real hoodlums, real bad guys, and terrorists. That includes going after those who would attack our citizens in such cowardly attacks as that on the Washington Navy Yard. It doesnâ€™t mean we should give away our constitutional freedoms such as the First and Second Amendments. But it does mean we should spend our time and our resources thwarting real evil like random shooters, and stop worrying about children being children.
As this column is being written, we do not know the full extent of the injuries and deaths at the Navy Yard. But like you, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at ###