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Republicans unveil legislation expanding federal law to prohibit swatting

A pair of Republican lawmakers are seeking to crack down on “swatting” incidents, introducing legislation on Wednesday to prohibit such calls under the federal criminal hoax statute.

Republican Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) on Wednesday unveiled the bill, titled the Preserving Safe Communities by Ending Swatting Act, which would amend the federal criminal hoax statute and establish strict penalties for swatting, including up to 20 years in prison if the attempt or attempts lead to serious injury.

Swatting incidents occur when a person or multiple people report false information about an emergency, crime, mass shooting or kidnapping in progress to force a large police response. Swatting attempts have increased in recent years as a form of online harassment and often target celebrities, political figures and internet livestreams.

Law enforcement is often falsely told there is a threat inside the home, putting the victims of the attempts in danger.

Scott’s home in Naples, Fla. was swatted last month, just days after a series of other public officials, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, reported similar incidents.

“Last month, criminals attempted a ‘swatting’ on my home in Florida in a despicable act of cowardice, clearly intending to terrorize my family and inflict fear and violence,” Scott wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “This is happening around the nation, not just to elected officials, but also to hundreds of Jewish institutions. It’s sickening, dangerous and we must stop it.”

Scott on Wednesday said the bill would ensure the “cowards” behind these swatting calls “face serious consequences.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sounded the alarm over the uptick in swatting incidents last year and called on the FBI to track such attempts. The FBI launched a national database to track the incidents last June.

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