The bombings at the Boston Marathon last week have had an impact on debates in Congress regarding gun control and immigration. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who has been critical of the Senate for stopping a measure that would require expanded background checks, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he’s hopeful that security can be improved as it has since 2001, but said no security system will be perfect.
Reports have said the Russian intelligence service alerted the FBI to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect who was killed in a shootout with police. Pascrell said it’s too soon to tell exactly what happened.
“Whether he fell between the cracks, whether the FBI fumbled, I don’t know,” Pascrell said. I’m not in a position to try to crucify the FBI when I don’t know all the facts and those politicians that have done that to the FBI will be their best friend tomorrow morning if they get some heat on it.”
But Pascrell said he does have questions — as to all citizens and members of Congress — about whether or not the FBI should have gone further with the investigation or alerted local law enforcement, if they didn’t.
Pascrell issued a strong letter after a measure requiring expanded background checks for weapons failed to pass in the Senate since he supports stronger gun control measures. He said the vast majority of Americans support background checks, indicated by poll numbers of 80 to 90 percent support.
“It’s important to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them. It’s as simple as that,” Pascrell said. “And the NRA used to be for this. Now they’re not for it. So I’m not basing what I think on the NRA. I’m gonna tell you what I think in my own personal experiences.”
The Tsarnaev brothers were able to amass a large number of weapons without permits in a state that requires them. When asked if that proves expanded background checks won’t make a difference, Pascrell said, “There’s no such thing as seamless security and for anybody to imply we can get to that point is wrong. We should try to do the best that we can to protect our American citizens.”
The Senate is arguing today about immigration reform. Pascrell said just as the background check measure wasn’t a slam dunk, he’s not convinced immigration reform will pass easily. He added that he believes the proposal shows compromise.
“I know the eight senators who worked very hard on immigration have come up with a very balanced approach. It’s not everything that I would want. There are things in there that I don’t want. But I think it’s a balanced approach,” he said.
While the proposed legislation may seem likely to pass, Pascrell said there are still obstacles.
“You have to understand that we gotta go through this whole process of committee and then debates on the floor and then attempts to stop it through procedural votes,” Pascrell said. “And that’s what’s killing us in the Senate — procedural votes, archaic rules that just don’t operate really in the 21st century.”