A coalition of more than two dozen Republican senators recently proposed a new bill that would add stricter penalties, including the death penalty, for criminals who target law enforcement officers.
The legislation, known as the Back the Blue Act, was introduced by Senator John Cornyn of Texas ahead of National Police Week in May, to protect law enforcement officers amid a rise in anti-police rhetoric and violence. The proposed law would establish a new federal offense for killing or conspiring to kill federal law enforcement officers, federal judges or any federally funded public safety officer.
Cornyn emphasized the daily sacrifices made by peace officers. “Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to serve families across Texas,” he said in a statement. “Violent criminals who target those who protect our communities should face swift and tough penalties, and the Back the Blue Act sends that clear message.”
Under the Back the Blue Act, offenders who cause the death of a federal officer would be subject to the death penalty and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years. In cases where the attack results in injury but not death, the minimum sentence would be 10 years.
The bill also introduces a new federal crime category for assaulting federally funded law enforcement officers. Penalties for this offense would increase based on the severity of the injury and the use of a dangerous weapon.
The act further allows for self-defense and Second Amendment protections, permitting law enforcement officers — with certain restrictions — to carry firearms into federal facilities and other jurisdictions where possession is typically prohibited.
Another provision of the Back the Blue Act limits federal courts’ review of challenges to state court convictions related to the murder of a public safety officer engaged in official duties.
Additionally, the bill specifies that the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer or first responder constitutes a statutory aggravating factor in applying the federal death penalty.
Cornyn initially introduced a version of the bill in 2016, following the tragic killing of five police officers in Dallas. The current version of the Back the Blue Act has garnered the most co-sponsors yet, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The proposal comes after a marked increase in officer homicides last year, with 60 of the 243 total deaths coming due to shootings or other felonious acts, according to FBI data.