Sen. Chuck Grassley holds a pristine A+ rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund while Mike Franken, his Democratic challenger, has an F rating, which should give a clear indication of where the two stand on the issue of gun control.
During a Columbus Junction town hall held less than a week after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, Grassley was pressed by Iowans to do something to stop mass shootings.
Grassley, who has been in the Senate since 1981, avoided answering with specifics about solutions he would support and dismissed the workability of ideas the audience members proposed such as legal liability for gun manufacturers and age limits for buying certain firearms.
“[Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Chris Murphy] think they have a framework put together that something can be done to stop this violence through some gun legislation and through some school safety issues,” Grassley said at the time of the bipartisan gun safety bill response to Uvalde.
But despite repeatedly signaling he was at least open to supporting the bill, which became the first successful new gun safety law in nearly 30 years from Congress, Grassley ended up voting against it. Fifteen of his Republican colleagues supported it, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst.
“This is a difficult issue,” Grassley said in a statement on the vote. “Much of their legislation is good, but I have very specific concerns about safeguarding constitutional due process rights that prevent me from supporting the bill in its entirety.”
On the other hand, Franken, a former Navy admiral, has advocated for more responsible gun ownership.
“There need to be standards applied to gun ownership, just as we apply standards to car ownership,” he told the Des Moines Register. “In the military, no one handles firearms without strict training and understanding of the responsibilities associated. No one disputes the right to own firearms. The responsibility for safe use must be on the owners of firearms themselves.”
Franken served in the US Navy from 1978 to 2017, and he’s talked a lot about his experience handling and using firearms.
Franken has also criticized the gun lobby and gun manufacturers for not taking responsibility for the number of guns in America and the loose attitudes many gun owners have.
“And I’m not anti-gun. I’m a gun owner. But I’m a responsible gun owner,” he told the Newton Daily News in May. “Unlike those who commit these shootings.”
Consistently, Franken has criticized the politicians who won’t stand up to the gun lobby, most notably Grassley, who said at his Columbus Junction that he doesn’t know much about guns.
“By the way, you’re talking to somebody that doesn’t know much about guns because I haven’t shot a gun in probably 20, 40 or 50 years,” Grassley added at his Columbus Junction town hall. “I’ve got one little gun that hasn’t been shot during that period of times. So you aren’t talking to someone who loves guns, I don’t hate guns, but I do protect people’s constitutional rights.”
Franken invites Grassley out to a gun range with him to demonstrate the destructive power of an assault rifle, then wants to know if he thinks people should still be able to buy one at a gun show “no questions asked” https://t.co/9y7f9BgCjz
— Iowa Starting Line (@IAStartingLine) June 16, 2022
In Iowa, training and permits aren’t required for gun purchases. And the Iowa Legislature has repeatedly loosened gun laws.
Grassley often talks about due process rights and the 2nd Amendment when asked about gun safety measures the Senate could take up, to explain why he’s conflicted about supporting them.
“Instead of giving you an opinion, I’ll give you how I approach it—the 2nd Amendment, as part of the Bill of Rights, are just as important as any other sections of the Bill of Rights, and I’m going to look at any gun legislation and any Red Flag laws,” Grassley said in Columbus Junction in response to a woman who asked if he’d support raising the age limit for purchasing an AR-15.
Grassley also said he was looking for due process protections for Red Flag-type legislation, which would allow law enforcement, doctors or family members to petition a court to remove the guns of someone who represents a threat to themselves or others.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Grassley has received $226,007 from the NRA, though the numbers aren’t current to this year and don’t take into account the manufacturers and other interested parties, or dark money contributions.
But Grassley has mentioned a law he would support, a bill to expand the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, which he said would train schools to recognize potential threats.
Franken has said he supports expanded background checks and that he’s open to listening to other common-sense solutions people come up with.
“There’s a hundred things that can be done, and responsible gun owners in America, every one of them—every responsible one—will agree with me,” Franken said during a debate during the Democratic primary. “Because this is what we deserve, and it’s what those that have never handled a firearm also deserve.”
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