Jan. 12 2011 12:00 AM

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers reflects on gun control, 9/11 workers’ compensation on City Pulse on the Air

This story was updated Jan. 13.

Wednesday, Jan. 12 — U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said today that the tragic shooting Saturday of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson was not a failure of gun control policy but of the mental health system.

Speaking on “City Pulse on the Air,” Rogers said Congress should spend its time analyzing the mental health system, not gun control policy.

“We have to get better at identifying these folks earlier in the cycle,” Rogers said.

The fact that the shooter, Jared Loughner, was allowed to possess a gun with 30-round clips should not be part of the discussion, Rogers said.

“We can spend a lot of time talking about clips. We have to enforce the gun laws we have,” said Rogers, who represents the 8th District, which includes Lansing. He cited “five, six or eight bills” floating around Congress on gun control. “None of those things would have impacted this case as much as trying to intervene earlier.”

He suggests putting together a “bipartisan group that can go and ask really hard questions.” If there were hurdles for Loughner’s community college administrators to study his mental health, it’s Congress’ role to look at that.

He added that the gun control laws in place — for example, banning the public from buying machine guns — are adequate.

Rogers said the mood around Congress following the Arizona shooting has been “somber.” He spoke of the familial-type ties among Congress members on Capitol Hill regardless of political affiliations.

“All of us are exposed at public events. It’s that common bond,” Rogers said. “I knew Gabi. You feel for everybody that lost their lives that day. We know we have work to do, but I think it was right to stop and pause and pay our respects.”

On the show, Rogers also defended his position on missing a Dec. 23 vote on an entitlement fund for 9/11 workers who have suffered health complications after cleaning up Ground Zero.

He said there was already a fund with $150 million set aside for those victims, the same type of fund for returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said another “entitlement program” will cost the country “billions.”

“It didn’t mean that if (the new program) didn’t pass, there was no program,” he said.

Rogers’ excused absence was due to a family commitment, but he would have voted against it anyway. There is a disparity between work and family when you are more than 500 miles from your home district, he said.

“Sometimes family has to take precedence,” he said. “Unfortunately I’ve missed too many family things in this job.”

The executive editor of the Lansing State Journal, Mickey Hirten, criticized Rogers for missing the vote. In a column Sunday, Hirten said Rogers “couldn’t even bother to show up for the vote” and “wasn’t willing to discuss his non-vote.”

However, Rogers counters that it was “frustrating” that the vote was put on hold until two days before Christmas.

“They were holding votes to try and work another issue on the floor ,which was frustrating to me and other folks who had family considerations,” he said. “That’s certainly no way to run a railroad.”

On another matter, Rogers said on the radio show that he was too busy with congressional business, particularly his new chairmanship of the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence, to think about whether he might run against U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., next year. He said a candidate would need to decide in the next six or seven months.