By Kevin Coughlin
Civilians don’t need assault weapons, according to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.). But he’s taking a wait-and-see approach to stiffer gun laws, he said on Monday.
“We’re heading back to Washington [Tuesday]. We’ll see what Speaker Ryan might have … to address the issue,” the Congressman said following a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Morristown Green.
And despite his initial misgivings about Donald Trump, Frelinghuysen said he now supports the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
“I reject a lot of the things he’s said, but I do think he’s heading up the ticket, and I’ll be working with him.”
Galvanized by last month’s massacre in Orlando, local gun safety advocates paid two visits to Frelinghuysen’s Morristown office last week to press for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks for gun buyers, and a ban of gun sales to anyone on a “no fly” terror watch list.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has said the House will vote this week on an anti-terrorism package that will include a provision barring suspected terrorists from buying guns. Omar Mateen, the shooter in last month’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando–the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history–was removed from the FBI’s terrorist watch list in 2014.
Some Democratic lawmakers contend it’s a National Rifle Association-backed measure that doesn’t go far enough, and they are threatening to repeat last month’s sit-in.
ASSAULT WEAPONS AND DATABASES
When asked if civilians need assault weapons, Frelinghuysen, a Vietnam veteran, told MorristownGreen.com:
“I don’t think there’s any need.”
But while he welcomes a crackdown on “all sorts of trafficking, whether it be drugs or weapons,” he said stricter gun laws will be a hard sell to many legislators.
“Obviously, what happened in Orlando was horrible. We don’t want any repetition. Some of that obviously was tied into some home-grown extremism,” said Frelinghuysen.
“New Jersey has pretty strong laws, but I do think a lot of other members of Congress have a different view. It’s a big nation. They don’t feel comfortable with a lot of the New Jersey- and New York-type laws.”
Frelinghuysen said the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI should take a closer look at the FBI’s 800,000-name terror watch list, one of several such databases compiled by government agencies.
Some experts view the lists as vital tools for preventing another 9/11-type attack.
Yet most lawmakers have virtually no grasp of how these lists work, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Washington Post. Civil liberty groups say many people wrongly are placed on the lists and cannot get off.
Morris County advocates for tougher gun laws found at least one reason for optimism last week: Frelinghuysen’s D rating from the NRA.
RODNEY AND DONALD
Back in the spring, meanwhile, MorristownGreen.com reported that Frelinghuysen told local eighth-graders he was “very unenthusiastic” about Donald Trump’s presidential bid.
“I just don’t like the way he has pushed his way around over the years,” the Harding resident said at the time, at a Morris Township school bearing his family’s name.
“There are times that I feel that he may have a message; but you can’t be president if you insult 52 percent of the population.”
Frelinghuysen, 70, now is on board the Trump train.
“I support him. I’m on the ticket with him. The primary voters made a decision, and I’ll be working with him to elect Republicans up and down the ticket,” said the Congressman, who seeks his 12th term this fall. Democrat Joe Wenzel will try to unseat him in the heavily Republican district.