Brace for it. A second Republican congressman holds a town hall meeting to let the voters have their say. Around the nation raucous constituents have gotten downright rowdy in the process of exercising their right to redress of grievances. NJTV News Correspondent Brenda Flanagan is standing by at the Waretown Volunteer Fire Company ahead of Rep. Tom MacArthur’s town hall.
Mary Alice Williams: Brenda, what are you expecting?
Flanagan: Well right now things are pretty quiet, Mary Alice. We’re here live in Waretown. It’s a pretty quiet scenario. We’re waiting to hear from the congressman. This is a widely anticipated town hall. And it comes weeks after Republican congressmen in New Jersey have been criticized essentially for ducking their constituents now. So far Republican Leonard Lance has held two town halls that attracted thousands of people. Outside, 50 to 75 people have been lined up for this town hall. Now this is for a meeting room that holds about 250 people. This meeting is going to be featuring people who say they want their questions answered and one says emphatically, she’s not a paid protester.
Heather Larson, Action Together Burlington County: We are peaceful and active but we do not want to cause a raucous which is what keeps being said. We are just very passionate about the issues and we want to be heard and have our questions answered.
Flanagan: Now among the protesters here are members of New Jersey’s Second Amendment Society to show their support for Congressman MacArthur’s concealed carry permit bill. New Jersey’s not a concealed carry state. It’s got very restrictive gun laws, however, this particular bill would allow concealed carry across state lines. … Now the governor has just within the hour given more leeway for handgun carry permits in New Jersey. Joining me, Congressman Tom MacArthur. Thank you and welcome.
MacArthur: Happy to be here Brenda.
Flanagan: To discuss the concealed carry permits across state lines. Why is this something you feel you need to support?
MacArthur: Well I’ve supported a few things at the same time. One was concealed carry and that operates like a driver’s license. If you get a carry license in another state, then it would be recognized in every state. You know, it really struck me when I met with Shaneen Allen, if you remember that story. … She’s a woman who comes into our state with a permit to carry, tells an officer that she has a gun in her bag and spends 40 days in jail and is threatened with years in prison, a single mother of young children. And it just struck me that that’s not right. She did everything the way she should have. It’s very confusing for people when they cross state lines. So what this does is it has states recognizing each other’s permits, but people still have to obey the laws within the states that they’re in and New Jersey has a lot of gun laws other than the carry permit. And people certainly have to obey all of those. At the same time, last week I also called for more funding for the federal instant background system because while I believe people have an absolute right under the Second Amendment to bear arms, to protect themselves and their families, we also need to make sure that criminals and people with mental illness that shouldn’t have guns, we have to make sure they don’t get them. And so I think you have to have both. You have to have both sides of this.
Flanagan: A balanced approach. Let’s talk about, there’s so many different things to talk about. I’m sure you’re going to get a zillion questions tonight. But I think the one that might be on everybody’s mind at this point is President Trump over the weekend alleged that President Obama had wiretapped his phone. What was your reaction to that? What do you think should happen?
MacArthur: Well I was certainly surprised. I haven’t seen any evidence. It’s only a few days ago that this happened. And so I’m really, I’m not in a position to know what to think of it. I have to wait and see why he made that allegation.
Flanagan: The FBI director is already asking for the White House to disavow it, saying they have no knowledge of this.
MacArthur: Well I saw that. And that’s certainly of concern. Look, I’m not Donald Trump’s spokesman and I think from my perspective I want to wait and see, a few more days, and see why this allegation was made and then I’ll know what to make of it.
Flanagan: The president today signed the second version of a travel ban. Your reaction to that?
MacArthur: Well I saw that he cleaned up some of the things that didn’t work well in the first.
Flanagan: Iraq is out.
MacArthur: Well Iraq is out because with all the translators, we have an ability to properly vet people. And I think importantly, green card holders, visa holders are no longer mixed up in that. I think that’s important. But you get back to the basic order and it gets to security here in America and making sure that we clean up the vetting process for refugees and people traveling from really volatile parts of the world. And I think, bear in mind, this is temporary. It’s 90 and 120 days and I think we need to give it a chance.
Flanagan: Well, in about a few moments you’re going to be getting a chance to answer a lot more questions besides those. Three hours of it. And I thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and chat with us.
MacArthur: Thank you, Brenda.