DES MOINES, Iowa — As the longest-serving Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley has been in office during Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland and now El Paso and Dayton. In the three decades since Columbine — Congress hasn’t done much to deal with gun violence except to fall back on their talking points.
On Tuesday, Grassley, one of the few Senators who consistently holds town halls, met with his constituents eleven hundred miles from El Paso in Aurelia, Iowa.
The conversation largely focused on rising drug prices and tariffs affecting farmers in Iowa. But about 50 minutes into the town hall, Ray Mullins, a retired farmer and reliable Republican voter, asked the senator what he was planning to do about gun control. Grassley defended his Second Amendment record, and pointed to a few measures that he supports, like red flag laws and harnessing the Secret Service’s ability to assess threats to prevent mass shootings.
But the senator told VICE News that he did not support the universal background checks passed by the House, which would close current loopholes in background checks at gun shows or private transactions.
Two background check bills have already passed in the House of Representatives back in February, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed no interest in voting on those measures.
"If you're talking about a private sale between me and my son, I don't think that person should have to go through a background check. I think I know that person well,” Grassley said, adding he felt the same for friends and neighbors.
Mullins, on the other hand, thinks background checks need to “go more in-depth,” but he doesn’t believe easy access to guns in America contributes to mass shootings.
"I just wonder what goes through these people's mind when they're doing this, when they're shooting like down in Sandy Hook," Mullins said. "When they shot the kids. I mean, how could a person do something like that. And it's all mental to me."
He’s more or less given up on politicians fixing the problem.
"It's is a sad situation,” he said. “So I don't know how they're going to do it. It's going to be going on. I mean two of them in two days with that many people.”