U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, long a reliable ally of the National Rifle Association, said Thursday that he is open to addressing “gaps” in gun-control laws.
“Based on the tragedies that have happened recently, I recognize there are gaps that are in the system. Both sides need to be honest about that, and those gaps need to be addressed,” he told reporters during an unrelated event at Cardiovascular Systems, Inc., a St. Paul medical device company.
Paulsen said the FBI needs to do better. The bureau has acknowledged not following protocols in the recent Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, failing to act on a tip.
He also reiterated his support for a ban on “bump stocks,” which are devices that can turn a firearm into the equivalent of an automatic weapon, used to deadly effect in the Las Vegas massacre last October that left 58 people dead and 851 injured. A subsequent effort to ban bump stocks stalled in Congress.
Paulsen also proposed allowing “gun violence restraining orders,” which would allow judges to temporarily take away a person’s guns after a hearing determined that the person is dangerous.
Paulsen, a fifth-term Republican from the Third Congressional District, is expected to face a tough re-election battle in a district made up principally of western Twin Cities suburbs.
The campaign of one of his DFL opponents, wealthy businessman and philanthropist Dean Phillips, attacked Paulsen in a news release Thursday. Phillips’ campaign charged that Paulsen has been absent on the issue of allowing government researchers to study gun violence.
Paulsen said Congress should clarify a 1996 measure known as the Dickey Amendment that prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using government money to “advocate or promote gun control.” The measure has been widely interpreted as a de facto ban on gun violence research.
“We can make smart, educated decisions as policymakers, of where we need to go in this debate, if we have the facts,” Paulsen said.
The Phillips campaign cited several recent instances of Paulsen voting against changing the policy.
Phillips also called on Paulsen to give to charity the $20,000 he’s received in campaign contributions from the NRA.
Adam Jennings, another DFL candidate hoping to face Paulsen in November, called this week for a ban on assault weapons.
Paulsen was at the St. Paul event to talk about repealing a federal tax on medical devices that helps fund the Affordable Care Act.