School shootings strike a raw nerve in society and rightfully so. During my 14 county meetings last week in eastern Iowa, Iowans expressed passionate views on the issue of gun violence. Mass shootings rip apart the fabric of American life, creating a lifetime of grief and sorrow for survivors and the loved ones left behind. Every child deserves to feel safe in school.
Your Feb. 20 editorial, “After yet another school shooting, Congress must act against gun violence,” deserves a response. As one of Iowa’s elected representatives in Congress, I agree we must act. I have pushed for legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and that would make schools safer, and I will continue to do so. In 2013, I drafted an amendment with Sen. Ted Cruz that would have put $300 million toward making our schools safer, strengthened the federal background-check system for gun purchasers, studied the causes of mass shootings, and provided more rigorous prosecution of gun crimes. Although it garnered bipartisan support from the majority of the Senate, the Democrats blocked it from receiving 60 votes.
I also stand strongly behind the fact that the government did not “do a very good job” of preventing the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High. In fact, it’s very troubling to learn that so many red flags were missed or flat-out ignored regarding the troubled 19-year-old now charged with killing 17 people in Parkland, Florida. The people who knew him saw something, and they said something. Incredibly, law enforcement didn’t “do something.” At my request, my Judiciary Committee staff received a briefing from the FBI and Google last week to examine the missteps so that they don’t happen again.
We must work together to keep our schools and our campuses safe. Unfortunately, the causes of gun violence are complex, and there is no single law that would guarantee public safety. It will take a thoughtful, multifaceted approach to address gun violence. That’s why I support comprehensive measures, including strengthening and enforcing the criminal-background-checks system; looking at preventing bump stocks from turning legal firearms into automatic weapons; increasing mental-health services and screenings; improving reporting systems to avert threats of school violence; upgrading school safety infrastructure and holding government accountable for missing red flags.
Finally, your editorial misinforms readers about the Obama-era regulation that automatically put certain Social Security recipients on the federal gun-ban list. The Social Security Administration rule stigmatized persons with mental disabilities for being assigned a person to help manage their money. That’s why a broad coalition of civil and disability-rights groups, including the ACLU, joined the call to repeal the flawed ruling. A person with say, an eating or sleep disorder, could have been put on the FBI list without due process. No one had to show a person was a danger to self or others before being put on the list. As a society, we must do more to destigmatize mental-health diseases and expand access to mental-health services, from the criminal justice system to improving suicide prevention for students and veterans.
I am deeply troubled by gun violence on our streets and in our schools. Schools are a sanctuary of learning and opportunity. Let’s keep them that way.
I welcome the renewed dialogue to address school safety, an issue that resonates with families in every neighborhood across America. Throughout my public service, I have made a commitment to keeping in touch with Iowans because it is essential to representative government. We are stronger united, not divided. We should focus on areas where we can find consensus and enact laws that will make a difference.
– Chuck Grassley
New Hartford, Iowa