Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Make a Bomb Threat, Do Time in Prison

May 21, 2002

In the wake of the terror perpetrated against our nation on September 11, we have seen the very best of America on display. We have witnessed people young and old selflessly giving of themselves to assist those who are suffering, public safety and emergency personnel working literally around the clock, and elected leaders in Washington putting aside differences to support the President and address the security and economic needs of our citizens. America has responded in a way that fills us all with pride.

We have also witnessed some of the worst among us attempt to wreck havoc on our communities and public safety operations by making false bomb threats against schools and public buildings. Many towns have been victimized by these threats in the weeks after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. These threats are cowardly, dangerous, and represent emotional terrorism at its very worst.

False bomb threats disrupt school days, frighten our children, and keep public safety officials from their important life-saving work. These acts are well beyond silly pranks. They are serious crimes against our people and those who commit them should be severely punished. Enough is enough.

That is why I am introducing legislation in Congress to require mandatory minimum sentencing

under federal law for those who make bomb threats against individuals, buildings, or property. Current federal law recommends prison sentences ranging from ten months to six and a half years, depending on the criminal history of the perpetrator, but there are no minimum sentencing requirements.

My legislation will toughen the law substantially. It will require any person with a criminal record found guilty of making a bomb threat to be sent to prison for at least three years. A repeat offender will be sentenced to a minimum of six years in prison, and those who did not have a prior record will face one year behind bars, no questions asked. These punishments will show would-be offenders that we mean business as a community and that these threats will no longer be tolerated.

As this editorial page recently pointed out, as we move forward with our nation's response to the heinous acts of war against us, we must protect our already nervous citizenry from acts of emotional terrorism.

I believe that if you make a false bomb threat against innocent people, you should pay a heavy price. Current law is not nearly strong enough and its time to change it.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, represents the 8th Congressional District.