I received a fascinating bit of email yesterday about the press spin Congressman David Davis is tyring to put on his vote against a new federal law which lowers the boom on dogfighting, which has become an enormous interstate and international criminal organization.
My views, echoed by many bloggers across the state, supported by the entire Tennessee Washington delegation, a unanimous Senate vote and President Bush, are already posted.
However, the writer of the email I received from a 1st District resident said they were unhappy with the way Davis presented his defense in a front-page story in the July 30th issue of Morristown Citizen-Tribune (links there are seldom available more than a few days without paying subscription fees so my thanks to the email writer for including a copy of the text itself).
Davis says the rising voices of dissatisfaction over his vote are the acts of "activists" in Washington. (I wonder what the difference is between a lobbyist and an activist?)
The "activist" group is the Humane Society. Other "activists" who encouraged passage of this legislation include The American Veterinary Medical Association, The National Sheriff's Association, and over 400 law enforcement agencies covering all 50 states. Rep. Davis is quoted as saying "Basically, this is nothing more than inside-Washington politics."
The email also noted there was no mention in the article of the dogfighting ring in Hamblen County which was broken up around Memorial Day of this year.
What law enforcement asked for was a change that each count of dogfighting be made a separate charge, not just a single charge, with each violation bringing as much as a 3-year sentence and a $250,000 fine. A criminal who had as few as four or five dogs used in the bloodsport would then face very long prison terms if convicted. Weak state misdemeanor or felony laws which vary state to state can make prosecution less likely. And yes, perhaps the state of Tennessee should establish some even tougher new laws as well. I know I'll be writing my state reps asking for just that.
Rep. Davis says he deplores the bloodsport and is a dog-owner as well. And he said he viewed the issue as related to "states rights". And I certainly agree that an ever-expanding federal government can bring new sets of problems -- but this law did not increase federal intervention, it created much tougher penalties for laws already on the books. And it aids states who are trying to stop these crimes from spreading into their own communities. Since these criminals have spread to establish a national and international highly organized criminal ring, it appears to me that as with many other crimes which have spread to become a national and international menaces, the federal authorities asked for and received the penalties needed to stop this ever-growing problem.
Here are some excerpts from a letter sent by the National Sheriff's Association supporting the new legislation:
"There are an estimated 40,000 professional dogfighters who sell their fighting dogs nationwide and cockfighting is multi-million dollar business. The massive, criminal network of animal fighters impacts not only the thousands of animals who are subjected to the cruelties of animal fighting, but communities nationwide and law enforcement which must address, at great cost, the crimes associated with it including illegal gambling, drug dealing and even murder.
For example, last month, two gunmen broke into the house of a known dog fighter in Cleveland, Texas and shot him, letting him bleed to death. The attackers were reportedly seeking $100,000 they thought was in the house, and the amount wagered on a single high-stakes dogfight two weeks earlier in Houston. Earlier in the year, a man was shot and killed at a cockfight in Sacramento, California.
On average, there has been a murder related to animal fighting every month this year. Moreover, the crime of animal fighting is not isolated in each of our states. For example, this year law enforcement officials arrested 30 people in connection with a cockfighting operation in Marlboro County, South Carolina. Law enforcement officials there seized guns, $3,000 in cash and marijuana. Most of those arrested were from North Carolina and they brought their fighting birds and criminal activities across state lines—illustrating perfectly why the federal law is needed.
There are arrests of animal fighters every week, and this increase in enforcement action reflects a growing recognition on the part of law enforcement and others that animal fighting should not be tolerated, and is a hub for other criminal activity. The National Sheriffs’ Association sincerely believes that felony penalties are necessary to address the interstate criminal industry of animal fighting and to end this criminal and violent activity."
UPDATE: Another East TN blogger DeMarCaTionVille did her own survey of 1st District residents about Rep. Davis' vote on this issue. The results? Folks hereabouts sure can be fickle and how they respond to issues depends much on what they know (and don't know).