116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa’s Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday against a bipartisan gun bill that cleared Congress on a mostly party-line vote and is headed to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The Democrat-led U.S. House passed the measure, considered the most wide-ranging gun violence bill Congress has passed in decades, on a 234-193 vote, capping a spurt of action prompted by voters’ revulsion over last month’s mass shootings in New York and Texas.
The Senate passed the bill the night before on a 65-33 vote, with 15 Republicans — including Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst — joining Senate Democrats in supporting a measured compromise on a long-intractable issue that was crafted by senators from both parties.
Ernst, in a statement Thursday night, said the “bill does not take away the rights of any law-abiding American."
“As a lifelong supporter of the Second Amendment, proud gun owner, and combat veteran, I’m adamantly opposed to any infringement on our constitutional rights,” Ernst said. “Every American wants to keep our kids and our schools safe and provide folks access to mental health treatment, and this proposal helps do that without placing new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.”
The $13 billion measure would toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states put in place red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people adjudged dangerous. It would also fund local programs for school safety, mental health and violence prevention.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, in a statement, said he voted against the bill over concerns of “vague” legal definitions and due process rights of gun owners.
“Schools should be the safest place for our kids. I share the concerns of Iowans who are disgusted with gun violence, especially when those tragedies involve children,” Grassley said. “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.”
Grassley said he will “continue working to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, promote responsible gun ownership and advance legislation like the EAGLES Act to prevent mass shootings before they happen, while also protecting Iowans’ Second Amendment and constitutional due process rights.”
Iowa Republican U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson of Marion and Randy Feenstra of Hull echoed Grassley. Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa also voted against the bill Friday.
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, Iowa’s lone Democrat in Congress, voted for the bill.
Hinson said while there are many parts of the bill she supports — including increased mental health funding, training for law enforcement and bolstering school security — she worried parts of the legislation violate due process rights.
"Legislative solutions must keep guns from getting into the wrong hands without violating the rights of law-abiding citizens, and unfortunately, this legislation did not meet that standard,“ Hinson said in her statement. "I will continue working directly with local law enforcement and my colleagues in Congress on solutions that keep guns out of the wrong hands, improve school and public safety, and bolster mental health resources."
Feenstra, in a statement, said the bill contains “constitutional concerns that I cannot support.”
“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I will continue to vote to protect every Iowan’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms, while working to expand mental health resources for our communities and protect our children from unspeakable tragedies,” Feenstra’s statement reads.
Axne on Friday said the bill will help keep communities safe, but does not go far enough.
While including much-needed provision to help address mental health issues across the country and enhanced background checks for buyers under the age 21, Axne said the bill “misses the mark” by leaving out a ban on assault weapons.
“The assault weapons ban literally showed us through data that lives were saved,” Axne said. “Other countries that don’t have assault weapons, they don’t have these issues. This is purely an American issue. It’s purely a guns issue. The fact that anybody can go in and get an assault rifle at (age) 18 as opposed to having to wait until 21 to get a handgun is absolutely ridiculous.”
In the meantime, Axne said “we have a piece of legislation that is moving forward to better this country, and it will save lives and keep people safer.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report
comments: (319) 398-8499; email@example.com