Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grassley Responds re Gun Control: What a Disappointment, But Not a Suprise

The following is a letter that I received from Sen. Grassley about gun regulations. I find it mind-numbingly bad. Sad, sad, sad. I'm going to write him back and tell him so.Bellow his letter is the email that I sent in reply to this letter.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your support for stricter gun regulation. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to hear from concerned Iowans.
Recently, the Senate has debated and voted on proposed gun control legislation in response to the tragic events in Newtown. On April 9th, the Senate voted to proceed to consider gun control legislation. There were several amendments proposed from Senators that included stricter gun control legislation.
One amendment that was proposed was a large magazine ban. Limiting magazine capacity does nothing to stop violent crimes. Criminals can simply carry multiple magazines. This restriction would only further restrict law abiding citizens. With a recorded vote of 46-54 the amendment was not agreed to. Senator Feinstein also proposed an amendment that would have included her ban on certain semi-automatic weapons. I have concerns with Senator Feinstein’s ban. The goal of such a ban is to prevent shootings similar to the tragic shooting in Newtown. While I do not doubt her sincerity, I do doubt the effectiveness of such bans. Her amendment also failed by a vote of 40-60.
Congress needs to examine the current laws and background checks to make sure they are properly preventing prohibited persons from obtaining firearms. I have supported legislative efforts to improve and enforce reporting of crimes and mental deficiencies that would improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Additionally, I have repeatedly voted for legislation that would strengthen the prevention of illegal gun trafficking.
Another amendment offered by Senators Manchin and Toomey proposed expanded background checks. I have concerns with the amendment’s effect on private sales. Movement of firearms from one law-abiding citizen to another would be legal or illegal based on arbitrary distinctions that citizens could not be expected to know. For example, something as innocent as posting an advertisement for a hunting shotgun in a church bulletin that results in a private sale between members without a background check could result in federal penalties. This amendment also failed to reach the 60 vote threshold for an amendment to be accepted with a vote of 54-46.
While I did not vote to support the Manchin/Toomey amendment, I did author a comprehensive amendment that would target the causes of gun crime, address mental health records, and strengthen school security.
The Grassley amendment would have inserted the text of the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2013 in its place. This legislation, sponsored by 25 senators, would reauthorize and improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), increase resources for prosecutions of gun crime, address mental illness in the criminal justice system, and strengthen criminal law by including straw purchasing and illegal firearm trafficking statutes.
Specifically, the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act addresses violent crime committed with firearms in a number of ways. First, it fixes problems with the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), with a focus on improving the availability of records to the NICS database, including mental health records from federal and state courts that are currently not reported to the NICS system. These records include those of individuals found to not have the mental capacity to stand trial, or who were found not guilty by reason of mental defect. Further, they would ensure that states provide records to the NICS system by penalizing those who fail to provide records. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) recognizes that this failure is a problem with the current NICS system. Additionally, my amendment would also codify the executive order issued by President Obama requiring federal agencies to submit relevant federal records to the database and report to Congress whether they are complying with the law. Together, these changes would strengthen the existing background check system instead of following the Manchin/Toomey model of simply expanding a broken system to cover more transactions without fixing it.
Second, the Act combats gun related violent crime by increasing federal prosecution of violent offenders who commit gun crimes, and by cracking down on straw purchasers and firearms traffickers with new prosecution tools and increased penalties for gun crimes committed by prohibited persons. These provisions provide new criminal laws to federal law enforcement to combat the illegal straw purchasers that buy guns for criminals. It also creates a task force to strengthen Department of Justice efforts to investigate and prosecute cases involving convicted felons and fugitives who illegally attempt to purchase a firearm. The Act would also provide increased federal resources to hire prosecutors and agents to combat gun crimes and those who supply criminals and felons with firearms. Additionally, it would increase criminal penalties for gun crimes, including cases where criminals lie on background check forms in order to obtain firearms illegally. Finally, it directs the National Academy of Sciences and National Institutes of Justice to conduct a study examining the causes of mass shootings and reviewing causes of these violent acts.
Third, the Act seeks to reduce crimes committed by mentally ill offenders by: providing resources to state and local law enforcement to help interact with mentally ill offenders and reduce criminal recidivism by those with mental illness; clarifying to the Veterans Administration’s procedures regarding adjudication process for determining when a veteran is mentally defective for firearms possession; and by adding new purposes to existing federal grants to provide necessary training and support for state and local law enforcement agencies dealing with individuals with mental illness.
Finally, the Act expands the use of grant funds for school safety, including surveillance equipment, and the establishment of hotlines or tip lines for the reporting of potentially dangerous students and situations. The Act also establishes an interagency task force to develop and promulgate a set of advisory school safety guidelines.
My amendment was joined by over 25 cosponsors and gained larger bipartisan support than the Manchin/Toomey amendment. Despite this it failed to achieve the 60 votes necessary for passage under the consent agreement with a vote of 52-48. This common sense alternative legislation is a step forward and a way to ensure that criminals are prosecuted, gun crime is reduced, background checks are strengthened, mental health is addressed, and schools are secured; all while ensuring that law abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights are not infringed. I am disappointed it failed to pass, but believe it offers a sensible way to address these difficult issues responsibly.
Since the tragic events that took place in Newtown there has been an emotionally charged debate over gun control legislation from both sides of the issue. I have met with families from Newtown to discuss the legislation that has been debated. It has been emotional and difficult for all of us. It is important however, that we do not rush to pass legislation that does not address, and would not have prevented recent shooting tragedies by infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. I look forward to continuing the debate on how to keep criminals from obtaining firearms while insuring the safety of innocent Americans.
Again, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts on this debate. Hearing from concerned Iowans gives me an opportunity to serve Iowans better.

Dear Senator Grassley:
I received your email letter to me about recent gun regulation votes. I found it profoundly disappointing and terribly flawed in its reasoning. You really should investigate this issue rather than simply following the party line. In addition, I want to mention how the U.S. Senate has deteriorated as an institution, especially in regard to the use of the filibuster as an anti-democratic practice that has no support in the Constitution or law. You should move to abolish it immediately.

Thank your for your attention to this,
Steve Greenleaf

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a game. The U.S. Senate is playing a game. It's called "Republicans vs. Democrats (and to hell with the American people"). I just reviewed the voting record on this amendment. Almost without fail, it split along party lines. So what else is new?

Once again, the Senate has achieved nothing, having produced a big fat zero amount of meaningful work on this issue of gun safety (or gun control, depending on whether you speak reddish or blueish). It has rendered itself impotent, while families in Boston and Newtown and Aurora and Minneapolis and Oak Creek and Seattle and Oakland and Norcross continue to grieve their loved ones killed in mass murders in the U.S. in 2012.

Yet rather than feel ashamed of such a dismal track record, our illustrious senators pride themselves for holding onto (clutching) whatever stance happens to be most popular to their respective political party platform. Because senatorial elections are rearing their ugly heads once again. And God forbid that any senator should actually vote his or her conscience, should actually help make America safer for its citizens, when more votes can be had next fall by creating more conflict now.

Even as they seek to divide and conquer, I hope and pray the Senate remembers a greater wisdom for the greater good: "A house divided against itself cannot stand".