This week, the U.S. House passed a measure from a Florida Democrat and a Pennsylvania Republican cracking down on stalkers targeting minors with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.
In the fall U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., teamed up to bring out the “Combat Online Predators Act,” a bill increasing criminal penalties on stalkers going after minors including those that take part in cyberstalking. Their bill also mandates the U.S. Justice Department study federal, state and local laws targeting stalkers and reviewing the best practices to share with law enforcement agencies across the nation.
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee quickly passed it without opposition and it cleared the House floor on Tuesday with only two votes against it.
Fitzpatrick, a former federal prosecutor and FBI agent, offered his take on why the bill was needed after the House approved it.
“We must do everything we can to forcefully respond to egregious instances of stalking and cyberstalking, especially when committed against minors – the most vulnerable among us,” said Fitzpatrick. “The ensures that, not only are we increasing penalties for these crimes, but we are also requiring federal law enforcement officials to constantly evaluate and update practices to combat this digital harassment. There is still work to be done at the state level, but today’s passage shows we are serious about making these needed changes at the federal level.”
“Cyberstalking is a serious threat to the safety of our children and, as a parent, I believe we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Murphy. “Our bipartisan bill will increase the maximum criminal penalty for stalking and cyberstalking of minors to send a clear signal that this atrocious crime will not be tolerated. It will also enhance the ability of law enforcement agencies to better identify and respond to cyberstalking so that parents can have greater peace of mind that their children are safe from predators. I’m encouraged that the House approved our bill today with overwhelming bipartisan support, and I urge the Senate to take it up immediately.”
So far, there is no sponsor over in the Senate.
This is not the first time Fitzpatrick and Murphy have teamed up to craft legislation. Last year, Fitzpatrick brought out the “Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act” to fund Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series (JCTAWS) that are held by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Murphy and U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, R-NY, were original co-sponsors. U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, later joined as co-sponsors. The House passed the bill on a 398-4 vote back in September with four Republicans--U.S. Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Warren Davidson of Ohio, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky--voting against it.