Senator Collins Questions Attorney General on the Government’s Response to the Heroin Epidemic

Senator Collins expresses concern with “guns for drugs” trade, administration’s proposal to eliminate anti-heroin grants for local law enforcement

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins question AG Lynch on straw purchasing

Note to Assignment Editors and News Directors: Click HERE for high quality video of Senator Collins question AG Lynch on straw purchasing

 

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins question AG Lynch on COPS funding

Note to Assignment Editors and News Directors: Click HERE for high quality video of Senator Collins question AG Lynch on COPS funding

 

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, questioned Attorney General Loretta Lynch this morning on the opioid and heroin epidemic that is currently facing Maine and the country.  Senator Collins raised her concerns with a “guns for drugs” trade that is a major factor in the heroin crisis as well as the Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force.  Attorney General Lynch testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request. 

Senator Collins remarked that, “Recently federal law enforcement officials briefed me on the link between straw purchasing of firearms and the heroin crisis in Maine.  What they described for me is a scheme in which out-of-state drug dealer with ties to inner-city gangs or the Mexican drug cartel come to my state with heroin, find addicts with clean records to buy guns, and then exchange the guns for heroin.”

Senator Collins went on to note that she and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) recently introduced the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, legislation that aims to strengthen federal law to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute gun traffickers.  Senator Collins asked Attorney General Lynch whether she was familiar with how the straw purchasing of firearms is connected to the heroin crisis in Maine.

Attorney General Lynch acknowledged that she was aware of this problem and that it was of “grave concern” to the DOJ.  Attorney General Lynch also said that the Collins-Leahy bill to combat straw purchasing would be “extremely useful” in helping law enforcement gain cooperation from individuals who make straw purchases and in identifying members of drug trafficking rings.

Senator Collins also expressed concern that the DOJ’s FY 2017 budget request eliminates funding for the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force.  Senator Collins strongly supports this program, which funds competitive grants for law enforcement agencies in areas with high rates of heroin an opioid abuse to purchase drug detection equipment, expand data collection, strengthen information, and other purposes. 

“As [the heroin] epidemic continues to spread, I am very disappointed, and in many ways shocked, that the administration did not include any funding at all for [the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force], particularly since the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, CARA, which many of us have cosponsored and that will be on the floor soon, specifically authorizes this task force,” said Senator Collins.  “That’s an indication of strong Congressional support, as is the funding that it has received in the past two years.”

Senator Collins encouraged her colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to consider the many benefits of the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force and its invaluable support for local law enforcement as the FY 2017 appropriations process moves forward.