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DES MOINES — Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators, are waiting to see the final version of bipartisan legislation containing modest gun control proposals before stating whether they will support it.
The legislation was the result of two weeks of negotiations between a bipartisan group of U.S. senators in response to recent mass shootings in the United States.
But Grassley, who is up for re-election this fall, said he was “encouraged” to see the bipartisan group produce a proposal.
The proposal would make juvenile records available during background checks whenever someone under the age of 21 buys a gun; ban convicted domestic abusers from being able to buy a gun; and send federal funding to states enacting so-called red flag laws, which attempt to temporarily take guns away from individuals who could be considered potentially violent.
“I’m encouraged to see the bipartisan group of senators making headway on the important issues of mental health, school safety and curtailing gun violence,” Grassley said in a statement emailed to The Gazette’s Des Moines Bureau.
“As always, I need to see legislative text, which has yet to be written, before making a final decision on how I’d vote,” he said. “I’ve said from the start that, as we work toward improving safety, it’s important that we safeguard rights enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
Ernst spokesman Brendan Conley echoed Grassley’s wait-and-see approach.
“While this is currently only an outline of general and unspecific proposals, Sen. Ernst will evaluate the specifics of any legislation when there is bill text to do so,” Conley said in an email to the Des Moines bureau.
Ernst in the past has opposed similar language — called the “boyfriend loophole” — to banning domestic abusers from being able to buy a gun.
Ernst, who has said she was a victim of domestic violence, objected to a legislative proposal that would have retroactively classified assault convictions as felonies and barred those convicted from owning or buying guns.
“'Simply disallowing people due process is not what we want to see,” Ernst said in 2019. “I think there are great ways to protect survivors in a way that doesn’t strip away people’s rights.”
The proposed legislation announced this past weekend does not reach as far on gun control as Democrats have called for, but many Democrats nonetheless praised the work done by the bipartisan group in an effort to achieve some action on gun regulations after decades of inaction amid dozens of mass shootings in schools, churches and other public spaces.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the bipartisan group that put together the gun violence, said it represents “real, meaningful progress” and “breaks a 30-year log jam, demonstrating that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that truly saves lives.”
“Will this bill do everything we need to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic? No. But it’s real, meaningful progress,” Murphy said in a social media post after the bipartisan deal was announced.
There is not yet a timeline for when the legislation will be drafted and considered in the U.S. Senate.
In his Monday response, Grassley also cited legislation he previously introduced, supported its own bipartisan group of senators. The EAGLES Act, he said, would expand the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center to include a greater focus on school violence prevention.
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