Sen. Chuck Grassley's Iowa Town Hall Heats Up over Inaction on Gun Violence: 'The Answer Is Not to Do Nothing'

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Chuck Grassley
Chuck Grassley

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Chuck Grassley

Americans' frustration toward gun violence boiled over this week at a town hall held by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, when several attendees interrupted the Republican lawmaker to accuse him of putting children's lives in danger by holding up gun reform measures.

"You have been filibustering gun reform," one attendee said, Iowa Starting Line reports. "My daughter's a teacher, my daughter-in-law is a teacher, you are risking their lives."

The outlet reports that Grassley was repeatedly pressed about the measures he would be open to supporting, though he demurred when it came to giving specifics. Instead, he said he wanted to wait and see how negotiations proceed between Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. — who met virtually this week to discuss gun reform.

"To answer your question, I'm going to wait until they report next week before I decide what I'm going to do," Grassley told the crowd, according to Starting Line.

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Grassley also defended his past actions on gun measures, saying he had backed an earlier bill providing legal immunity to gun manufactures because, "I believe an honest business ought not to be sued for something that somebody else does."

When Grassley suggested a ban on assault weapons or AR-15 rifles wouldn't be helpful because there are already so many in American homes, one woman told the lawmaker: "The answer is not to do nothing!"

Others expressed similar frustrations — not just with Grassley but with lawmakers as a whole.

"Nothing's progressed I'd say for 40 years. We've been in stasis," 64-year-old Max Hilton told Grassley, the outlet reports. "We haven't fixed guns. We haven't fixed drugs. We haven't fixed social injustice. We haven't fixed the immigration system. I'm not indicting you personally, I'm indicting the whole group."

Elsewhere at the town hall, Grassley described himself as "somebody that doesn't know much about guns because I haven't shot a gun in probably 20, 40 or 50 years."

"I've got one little gun that hasn't been shot during that period of time," the senator said. "So you aren't talking to someone who loves guns. I don't hate guns, but I do protect people's constitutional rights."

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Many lawmakers are calling for tighter restrictions on guns in the wake of last month's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school — in which a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.

But even with hundreds of mass shootings taking place in the U.S. every year, Congress has failed to pass any major piece of gun control legislation in recent years.

One of the most recent efforts to reform federal gun laws came in 2013 with the Manchin-Toomey amendment, a measure that would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales. The amendment — which came to a vote four months after 20 first graders and six educators were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School — failed, getting only 54 of the 60 votes it needed to overcome a filibuster.

Defending his vote against the amendment at the time, Grassley told reporters: "Criminals do not submit to background checks now. They will not submit to expanded background checks."

According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence — an organization named for former press secretary Jim Brady, who was shot and permanently disabled during an assassination attempt on Republican President Ronald Reagan — Grassley has accepted more than $226,000 in donations from the NRA over the course of his career.

To express your opinion on gun reform proposals to your own representatives in Congress, you can look them up and contact them here: congress.gov/members