Threat to Collecting Purple Hearts and Other Medals

Well, here we go again! Just when medal collectors thought it was safe to buy and sell medals after the Stolen Valor Act was amended to exclude these sort of activities from the reach of the law, there is new legislation circulating that will have a very large impact on our hobby.

On Sept. 28, U.S. Representative Paul Cook, (R-CA-8) introduced a bill, HR 6234, which he calls the “Private Corrado Piccoli Purple Heart Preservation Act.” Rather than dissect and attempt to interpret Rep. Cook’s intent, I will just present the text of the bill Cook introduced (it has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it currently sits awaiting review):

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BILL

To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for penalties for the sale of any Purple Heart awarded to a member of the Armed Forces.

  1. Short title

This Act may be cited as the Private Corrado Piccoli Purple Heart Preservation Act of 2016.

  1. Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1) The Purple Heart medal solemnly recognizes the great and sometimes ultimate sacrifice of American servicemembers like Private Corrado Piccoli.

(2) The Purple Heart medal holds a place of honor as the national symbol of this sacrifice and deserves special protections.

  1. Penalty for sale of Purple Hearts awarded to members of the Armed Forces

Subsection (a) of section 704 of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

(a) In general

(1) Penalty

Whoever knowingly purchases, attempts to purchase, solicits for purchase, mails, ships, imports, exports, produces blank certificates of receipt for, manufactures, sells, attempts to sell, advertises for sale, trades, barters, or exchanges for anything of value any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof, except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

(2) Limitation on regulations

Regulations referred to in paragraph (1) may not authorize the sale of any Purple Heart awarded to a member of the Armed Forces or former member of the Armed Forces by the Secretary of the military department concerned.

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There you have it. There isn’t much point in discussing why this bill is misguided. If you are reading this blog, you already know why. The important thing for each of us to do is contact our own Representatives and / or members of the Judiciary Committee and succinctly impart why this bill is an affront to the liberty of veterans to decide how to dispose of their medals or of the collectors who desire to purchase and preserve the medals.

Your local representative may not have anything to say about it yet, however. Their voice will only matter if the bill makes it to a floor vote of the full House of Representatives.

At this point, the Judiciary Committee is deciding the merits of the bill. Immediate correspondence with the committee could have an impact. You can find a list of the membership here:

https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Full-Committee-Roster.pdf

For your convenience, here is a suggested letter to the Judiciary Committee that you are welcome to copy and use:

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Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives

Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
House Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers,

I am writing to you express my concern about HR 6234, the “Private Corrado Piccoli Purple Heart Preservation Act” that has been submitted for the Committee’s consideration by Rep. Paul Cook.

While I believe that Rep. Cook’s bill is well-intentioned, I am concerned that it overlooks certain liberties.

I do not argue that a veteran is entitled to keep his or her medals. But, as you are aware, a veteran’s medals are given to him or her by our government. If that veteran chooses to dispose of or sell those medals, that is the veteran’s right to do so. I don’t believe Rep. Cook considered that his Bill, if made into law, would infringe upon these rights of veterans or their heirs.

Furthermore, Rep. Cook’s Bill, as it is now written, fails to acknowledge the thousands of private collectors and researchers who often become the custodians of these medals, whether through purchase or gift. In so doing, these people perpetuate the memory and deeds for which the medals were originally awarded. Without these committed researchers, historians, and hobbyists, these actions would be forgotten to the ages. Rep. Cook’s Bill would effectively criminalize these efforts to preserve the record of our military history.

I ask the Judiciary Committee to not recommend HR-6234 for a floor vote in the House. Rather, I hope the Committee and Rep. Cook will give consideration to alternatives that will both preserve the right of the veterans or their heirs to decide how to retain, transfer, give away, or sell their medals as well as the collectors and historians who are committed to preserving the historic record by purchasing, collecting, researching, and displaying these medals.

Thank you for your thoughtful attention,

————

Send this letter to the Judiciary Committee’s Chair and Ranking Member:

Congressman Bob Goodlatte, (R-VA-6) contact info:
2309 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5431
Fax: (202) 225-9681

Representative John Conyers Jr (D-MI-13) contact info:
2426 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5126
Fax: (202) 225-0072

 

Preserve the memory,

John Adams-Graf, Editor

Military Trader & Military Vehicles Magazine

 

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