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House Judiciary Committee approves Ratcliffe, Rice bill to punish possession of deadly substances

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2019

Reps. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Kathleen Rice’s (D-N.Y.) bipartisan bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee today to criminalize the possession of certain deadly substances. The Effective Prosecution of Possession of Biological Toxins and Agents Act (H.R. 1986) closes a loophole in federal law that has allowed dangerous toxins and agents to be knowingly accumulated by individuals without proper registration. 

In the case, United States v. William Christopher Gibbs, a defendant was charged with knowingly possessing ricin. The case was dismissed because ricin is not among the biological agents and toxins specifically referenced by the federal statute banning the possession of such substances.

Ratcliffe’s bill will help ensure that future cases involving the possession of ricin and other dangerous substances can be properly punished by law.

“With the threat of bio-terrorism on the rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure that our legal system is equipped to properly punish individuals who knowingly accumulate deadly toxins and agents without required registration,” said Ratcliffe. “As a former federal prosecutor, I’m committed to improving the laws on the books to make sure that dangerous substances are kept out of the hands of people who can use them for malign activity.”  

“As a former prosecutor, I’ve always been committed to improving our legal system and closing dangerous loopholes in our laws,” said Rice. “As the threat of bio-terrorism continues to grow and evolve, we need to empower our law enforcement agencies with the ability prosecute individuals who accumulate deadly chemicals with the intent of causing harm. We need to ensure that our laws reflect the severity of this threat and that’s what this bill will help us accomplish.”