Congressman Erik Paulsen hosted a “Congress on Your Corner” event at the Cub Foods in Chanhassan yesterday, where he spoke with about a dozen constituents from throughout the Third District about a broad range of federal issues.
Kevin Crystal from Chanhassan came to speak with Paulsen about proposed gun control legislation, and to voice his opposition to any restriction of Second Amendments rights.
“I told him I’m against gun control and encouraged him to vote against it, because it’s not effective,” Crystal said.
Proposed gun control being advocated by President Barack Obama was a common thread among the conversations Paulsen had Thursday, and the third-term Republican congressman said he was unconvinced that further restricting gun laws is the answer to the nation’s gun violence problem.
“The President has just pushed forward on a larger gun control initiative, but I think the larger issue is not putting guns in the hands of individuals who are mentally ill or mentally unstable,” Paulsen said. “That means re-evaluating the background check situation and re-evaluating mental health issues first and foremost. That will address the issue.”
Asked directly whether he supported an assault weapons ban, Paulsen—who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association during last year’s re-election campaign—was clear that he has deep reservations about any limitations on specific weapons.
“I’m not convinced that a simple ban on certain types of weapons just because they look a certain way does anything to address crime issues,” Paulsen said. “I’ve been meeting with my law enforcement advisory committee, and they are going to look over that. We’ll look over everything.”
Thoughts on John Kerry
As Paulsen spoke with constituents, John Kerry’s confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of State was taking place in Washington. Paulsen said he knows Kerry “only a little bit,” primarily from skating with the Massachusetts senator in the annual Congressional hockey game played each year.
“That’s a Senate issue, but I would anticipate he’ll move forward quickly,” Paulsen said of Kerry’s nomination process. “He’s got a good repoire with his Senate colleagues. Every indication is he’s a good choice.”
“To Do List”
Paulsen said his “to do” list for the next two years includes tax reform, growing the nation’s economy and ensuring Washington “lives within its means.”
“Number one is making sure we bring some fiscal sanity back to Washington,” Paulsen said. “Part of that's not only cutting spending, which we need to do, but also growing the economy through tax reform. Being on the Ways and Means Committee has given me an opportunity to be front and center and to embrace the idea of real tax reform—lowering rates, broadening the base and getting rid of a lot of loopholes.”
Medical Device Tax
Congressman Paulsen has led the fight in Washington to repeal a controversial tax on medical devices, which he says directly impacts several companies in Minnesota that are leaders in the industry. While the reform did not pass during the last Congressional session, Paulsen said the issue is far from dead. Repealing the medical device tax has garnered unusual bi-partisan support, including from Minnesota Democrats in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
“We’re going to re-introduce that in about a week or so,” Paulsen said. “It’s harder to stop once it’s started, but we’re going to continue to keep it bi-partisan, keep it bicameral. It’s a big deal in Minnesota.”
Paulsen has regularly conducted similar meet-and-greet events since first being elected to the U.S. House in 2008. Thursday’s Congress on Your Corner was his first of 2013, and his office has scheduled another one next week in Eden Prairie.
Security at events like yesterday’s has become an issue for elected officials after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in Arizona back in 2011. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has routinely offered to proactively provide security, and Congressman Paulsen’s office has taken Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek up on the offer.
“We at least notify law enforcement when we’re in the area, and we leave it up to them to do what they think is appropriate,” John-Paul Yates, a staffer who has been with Congressman Paulsen since he was first elected to the U.S. House in 2008, said. “Thankfully we haven’t had any issues.”
Rumors have begun circulating online that Paulsen is considering a run against Democrat Al Franken for U.S. Senate in 2014, but he declined to directly address the rumblings during his Thursday visit to Chanhassan.
“I’m just focused on doing my job,” Paulsen said.