South Jersey representatives in Washington have taken different stances on gun control since recent mass shootings.
The state’s Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez called for new restrictions, while the region’s Republican U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Jon Runyan have sought a broader discussion that included mental health, school safety and violence in our culture and no new limits on responsible owners.
The group has long been split over firearms, and LoBiondo and Runyan always have been seen as Second Amendment supporters. Both have received “A” grades from the National Rifle Association, which has contributed to both of their campaigns.
Runyan received a total of $9,950 in the last two election cycles, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. LoBiondo received $2,000 in this year’s re-election campaign, the center reported, marking the first time in 11 congressional campaigns the NRA donated to him.
Both Lautenberg and Menendez were given “F” grades by the NRA and have not received contributions from them, the center reported.
The Dec. 14 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., that left 24 dead — including 20 grade-school children — has Democrats trying to bring back the Clinton-era assault weapons ban.
The proposal is expected to be introduced with the new session of Congress next year. A similar ban was in effect for 10 years until September 2004. While Washington, D.C., lawmakers have floated similar proposals, none has advanced far enough for a vote in the house.
In the Senate, both Lautenberg and Menendez have publicly spoken out in favor of outlawing assault weapons, as well as barring high-capacity gun magazines, which was part of the original ban.
“Words cannot express my sadness that another shooter used a weapon that has no legitimate purpose in a civilized society, using high-capacity 30-round clips that defy any reasonable use — and there are even greater capacity guns than this,” Menendez said in a Senate speech shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Menendez also called for more comprehensive background checks that he said would ensure no one with mental illness or a criminal record would be able to purchase these weapons. He added, “And there is no use if my state of New Jersey has tough laws but guns come from other states.”
Lautenberg supported what his spokesman, Caley Gray, called “common sense gun reforms.” Bills that he has introduced would limit high-capacity clips to 10 bullets as well as require people who buy a firearm at a gun show to undergo a background check.
Another bill would seek to bar people who are known or suspected terrorists from being able to buy guns, while the fourth would limit the sale of ammunition.
Lautenberg has long supported the assault weapons ban, Gray said. He said the ban would be “a real top priority when the new session of Congress begins.”
Both LoBiondo and Runyan released statements that said a comprehensive, bi-partisan solution needed to be found to prevent future mass shootings.
LoBiondo said the discussion should be placed in the broader context of what he said was the “seemingly increasing culture of violence and decreasing value of life.” The discussion should “seriously and thoughtfully discuss critical issues such as mental health and school safety.”
It is appropriate to consider how effective current gun laws are, but he said the debate should not focus on keeping responsible gun owners from legally buying firearms.
Similarly, Runyan said that he was committed to working to stop future mass shootings.
Like LoBiondo, he said laws should be reviewed for effectiveness, but Runyan said “I strongly believe that the right to legally purchase firearms should not be taken away from responsible owners.”
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