Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who is in her second term as a U.S. Senator and pledged to serve just two terms, defended her vote to advance a gun control compromise in the United States Senate during an interview with Simon Conway on 1040 WHO Radio.
Conway told Ernst that the No. 1 topic on everyone’s mind is her vote for a procedural bill that moves the “bipartisan gun bill” forward.
“Believe me, we are getting a lot of calls and emails about this as well,” Ernst said.
She said the bill is being misrepresented. Ernst said she is a “lifelong supporter of the Second Amendment, a proud gun owner, a combat veteran and is adamantly opposed to any infringement on our Constitutional rights.
“First and foremost, this bill does not take away the rights of any law-abiding American,” Ernst said.
She then said every American wants to keep kids and schools safe and provide people access to mental health treatment and services.
Ernst said the bill provides a new investment in mental health care, including in rural areas, as well as more safety in school safety.
Conway said Ernst had no way to read the 80-page bill prior to voting on it, shortly after an hour it was made public.
Ernst said she had an advanced copy of the bill.
“We did. We don’t have the finalized version of hte text but what we have large in part was advanced work on the drafts,” she said. “And so we were able to continously go through those drafts and then when the final version came out we were able to compare that with the drafts that we had.”
In her defense, Ernst took issue with the claim that the bill deals with Red Flag laws.
“There are already states that have Red Flag laws,” she said. “That’s their business. We are not forcing states to do Red Flag laws. We’re not telling them to do Red Flag laws. We’re providing grant money. We’re leaving a lot of this up to the states and how they will institute the grant dollars that are out there in the bill. So, say a state like California who does have Right Flag laws wants to use grant money on whatever their Red Flag procedures are — they can apply for grant money. But states like Iowa that don’t have Red Flag laws can use the money available and grants for veterans courts, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment.”
Conway took issue with the portion of the bill that allows transactions to anyone under 21 being delayed for up to 10 business days with “cause,” which is found on page 27. He called it “unconstitutional.”
“We have a right to keep and bear arms and that right shall not be infringed, Senator,” Conway said. “That’s an infringement right there. We’re saying, ‘hey, you’re 18. You can go drive a tank. You can die for your country. But we’re going to treat you differently from a 21-year-old that wants to buy the exact same thing.”
Ernst disagreed, saying it is “actually not an infringement.”
“You are not denying them the right to purchase, you are allowing time for a background check,” she said. “So we’re not saying you can’t buy, but what we are doing is saying we are going to follow the law, which says if someone has been deemed or committed because of a mental health issue and by current law is already deemed as not being able to acquire a firearm, making sure that at the age of 17-and-a-half, if they committed a felony that has been masked by the courts, um, making sure that if they were institutionalized and had the right to own a firearm taken away from them, making sure that that information is available in the NICS Background System. Now because this is new as part of a provision in this bill, is actually encouraging those states to upload that information into the NICS Background System.”
Ernst said currently someone at 17 and 364 days could commit a heinous act, but it won’t be flagged in NICS.
“Well that’s something we should probably know before we allow an 18-year-old to purchase a weapon,” she said. “All this is doing is delaying from three to 10 days if there is something that is flagged in the system.”
Conway told Ernst people are upset about the bill, but Ernst maintained law-abiding citizens will not go through anything different than what they’re going through now.