Giffords' Final Legislation Targets Airborne Drug Smugglers

By Carlton Purvis

As her last act before issuing her resignation, Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) introduced a bill to help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stop the flow of drugs from Mexico into the United States

H.R.3801, the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives Wednesday to a round of applause as Giffords cast her vote.

The act amends parts of the Tariff Act of 1930 that deal with aviation smuggling, extending the definition of aircraft to include “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air; and ultralight vehicles.”

Ultralight vehicles are a favorite among smugglers because they are inexpensive, quiet, and can fly at night without lights. One ultralight can carry several hundred pounds of narcotics, drop them in the U.S., and return without ever having to land. They fly low enough to evade radar detection.

H.R. 3801 closes a current loophole that allowed smugglers using ultralights to receiver a lesser penalty than those using airplanes or cars - up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

It also penalizes “attempts or conspiracies to commit aviation smuggling,” which would allow prosecutors to charge people other than the pilot in aviation smuggling operations.

The legislations tasks the Department of Defense to continue cooperation with DHS to identify technology to combat drug trafficking and especially technology that could be used to detect and track the illicit use of ultralight aircraft.

Giffords resigned from Congress to finish recovery after being shot in the head January 8, 2011 during a public appearance at a grocery store in Arizona. The gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, killed six and wounded 12.

Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz read the resignation letter aloud to Congress on Wednesday for Giffords, who is still undergoing speech and physical therapy.

“The only way I ever served my district in Congress was by giving 100 percent. This past year, that’s what I have given to my recovery,” Schultz read.

“I have given all of myself to being able to walk back onto the House floor this year to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. However, today I know that now is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can serve in elected office.”

thumbnail by jitze/flickr


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