As written, the Freedom from Over‐Criminalization and Unjust Seizures (FOCUS) Act of 2012 would remove authority from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA agents and officers to carry firearms.
Currently, this authority exists only in the Lacey Act. It was validated by a 1920 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Missouri v. Holland). Sen. Rand Paul (R‐Ky.) initially introduced the FOCUS Act (S. 2062) that we at the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) oppose.
This legislation is a dangerous over‐reach and over‐reaction to the Gibson Guitar case in Nashville, Tenn. This proposed bill will amend the Lacey Act, which was passed in 1900 and last amended in 1981. This proposed legislation is totally unfocused.
The assertion that wildlife agents should not serve and execute warrants with firearms is faulty. Most reasonable people know that "game wardens" and wildlife agents routinely encounter armed subjects whether they are involved in legal or illegal taking of fish, game, and wildlife. The high court recognized that many species of game and fish are highly migratory, and those who harvest them are not necessarily local residents.
Historically, violations of these laws could not be effectively investigated or prosecuted once the wildlife left the jurisdiction where it was illegally taken. This law gives the government the ability to assist state, tribal, local and other nations in investigating wildlife crimes that they otherwise could not due to lack of resources, funding, or jurisdiction considerations.
Every state legislature has armed and granted full-time state law enforcement status to its wildlife enforcement officers.
In a study conducted by the FBI of assaults on conservation law enforcement officers, it was revealed that agents and officers enforcing environmental and natural resource laws were nine times more likely to be assaulted with a dangerous weapon when compared to traditional law enforcement officers. The public realizes when they are stopped by a state trooper that most traffic violations are usually an infraction, however troopers are still armed.
The FOCUS Act, which has yet to become law, would also remove international predicate violations. This effectively hampers the enforcement of the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts and the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), because many times violations of this law and this treaty are enforced under the Lacey Act.
The Lacey Act also contains provisions that safeguard public health and restrict the importation of invasive plants and injurious species of wildlife. There have been numerous cases where large-scale operations exposed the public to contaminated shellfish and falsely labeled seafood that were intercepted before threatening public consumers.
Recently, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a rule that would ban the importation and interstate transportation of four non‐native constrictor snakes that threaten the native species of wildlife in the Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems across the U.S.
Both of these activities also impact jobs and the economy by providing an unfair competitive edge to unscrupulous seafood dealers and threatening the livelihoods of the tourism industry in Florida and other southeastern states.
Finally, the FOCUS Act would remove the "big stick" of a potential $250,000 penalty for individuals and $500,000 for corporations prosecuted for felony offenses. These fines are almost never levied, and more reasonable fines are requested by U.S. attorneys. However, in cases where the subjects made large sums of money through unlawful commercialization of the "people's wildlife," which is a theft from each and every citizen, then the ability to levy large criminal fines serves as a deterrent against just accepting civil fines as the "cost of doing business."