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Collins statement on H.R. 2708 markup – House Judiciary Committee

“. . . governments that attempt to restrain people’s hearts and minds — for whatever reason — pave the way to oppression and political violence. H.R. 2708 is an attempt by the Democrat majority to do just that.”

WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at today’s markup of H.R. 2708.

Below are the remarks as prepared.

Ranking Member Collins: Mr. Chairman, over the past several months, my Democrat colleagues have succeeded in passing legislation that would do nothing to prevent mass violence, including gun violence. They have also succeeded in passing resolutions condemning hate speech generally, because they couldn’t get the Democratic Caucus to agree on condemning the rank anti-Semitism within their own party. This legislation combines those two failures, with a dash of vagueness to further imperil every American’s civil liberties.

To be clear, Mr. Chairman, I abhor hate speech and acts of hate. I am the sponsor of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act. I stated on the floor earlier this Congress, twice in one month, that bigotry has no place in this chamber, and the political exploitation of anti-Semitism and hate occurs to this day.

However, my friends on the other side aren’t offering real solutions to this. Rather than address the underlying crimes — rather than pursuing softer hearts and intellectual integrity — Democrats are today using identity politics to further divide America. They’re exploiting our differences for political gain.

Let me be clear: A crime is not somehow worse because of the immutable or other characteristics of the victim. Justice must be swift, and it must also be blind. Murder is murder. Assault is assault.

Mr. Chairman, we must remain faithful to our democratic principles. As a nation, we are committed to free expression, free press and blind justice. As I stated earlier this year, governments that attempt to restrain people’s hearts and minds — for whatever reason — pave the way to oppression and political violence.

H.R. 2708 is an attempt by the Democrat majority to do just that. It would allow future administrations to use a vaguely-defined “hate crime” as a cudgel against individuals with whom they disagree by permanently depriving them of a fundamental constitutional right. We know this is true because, among other things, the legislation would apply retroactively — to misdemeanor convictions that meet the bill’s vague definition and may have occurred years, or even decades, in the past.

Moreover, this legislation is unnecessary. Current law already contains robust protections to ensure dangerous felons are prohibited from possessing firearms, whatever the motivation for their crimes.

I oppose this misguided legislation and urge my colleagues to do the same.

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