I know I speak for everyone in this room when I say that we all grieve for those who lost their lives or were wounded in the terrible shootings over the weekend. Too many families were shattered and futures destroyed. Let us take a moment in their honor. I invite you to join me in silent prayer.
Only someone consumed by hatred could commit the despicable acts that we saw in Ohio and Texas. The hate and the lack of respect for the sanctity of human life that led to these attacks has no place in America. It’s the responsibility of every American to condemn their bigotry and hatred. These cowardly acts of violence should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and I commend President Trump’s call for the use of the death penalty for mass shooters.
Many here tonight are gun owners. I’ve been a strong defender of Second Amendment rights my entire time in Congress. I know you’re as horrified by these shootings as anyone else. I also understand that much of the discussion around the gun debate doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing between law-abiding gun owners and the murderous monsters who attacked Dayton and El Paso, as well as Las Vegas, Parkland, Orlando and elsewhere. So there’s a lot of mistrust between gun rights advocates and gun control advocates that’s led to a stalemate. That makes it difficult for us to get much done in Congress. Many of these disagreements won’t go away any time soon, but tonight I want to talk about something we should all be able to agree on.
To prevent mass violence, we as a society must be better equipped to recognize the warning signs that almost always precede tragedies like the ones over the weekend. Existing laws are supposed to prevent dangerous people from purchasing or possessing firearms, but they don’t always work and many times aren’t enforced like they should be. We can do more to better protect our communities. Tonight, I’m calling on law-abiding gun owners to lead the charge in the effort to keep dangerous individuals from purchasing guns and to expand access to mental health resources.
According to reports, there were warning signs that, if heeded, might have helped prevent this weekend’s violent attacks. These were clearly troubled individuals who had contemplated violence for some time. We can do more to improve mental health care and we can all work together to identify individuals who have demonstrated violent behavior. This information will also support law enforcement efforts and keep officers safe in the line of duty.
This year, I introduced the bipartisan EAGLES Act to expand Secret Service threat assessment training so places like schools, churches and businesses can better identify potential threats. I’ve also introduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act to improve how we identify people who are mentally unfit to possess a firearm, and make sure that information is included in the background check database. Earlier today, President Trump called on Congress to act on “red flag” laws. The federal government has a role in establishing red flag laws that can prevent future acts of senseless violence while protecting due process rights. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft meaningful legislation that can help make our communities safer while also protecting due process and Second Amendment rights.
We also need to increase public awareness about the challenges faced by those who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. Lack of mental health resources poses a huge challenge. As chairman of the Finance Committee, I’m committed to exploring new options for increasing access to quality mental health care. We also still have a long way to go to promote parity in mental health and substance abuse treatment. I’m committed to building upon existing efforts, and finding new ways to end the stigma attached to mental health diseases. Experts tell us that it’s important to standardize care for behavioral health and addiction medicines.
There’s going to be significant disagreement on the larger issues and they will be debated for some time. But right now there’s much we can all agree on. I hope Congress can get to work very soon to pass my bills and other improvements so we can identify early warning signs to prevent tragedies and make sure dangerous people can’t get guns in the first place.
Grassley cosponsored the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which gives incentives for state and federal government agencies to improve their reporting into the NICS system. The legislation was signed into law in March of 2018.
Grassley cosponsored Sen. Orrin Hatch’s bipartisan Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018. The legislation funds school security improvements and invests in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens. Grassley successfully negotiated with appropriators and the White House to make sure that this program received the funding it deserved and fought for its inclusion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which the President signed into law in March of 2018.
Grassley joined Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and a group of senators in introducing the School Safety & Mental Health Services Improvement Act. The legislation would allow 100,000 public schools to improve school safety by using federal dollars for school counselors, alarm systems, security cameras and crisis intervention training.
While he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley held a hearing entitled “See Something, Say Something” in the aftermath of the Parkland Shooting to discuss legislative steps to improve school safety, and conducted oversight the government’s failure to respond to tips beforehand.
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs shootings, Grassley held a hearing entitled “Firearm Accessory Regulation and Enforcing Federal and State Reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).” Grassley also supported the Administration’s regulatory effort to restrict the sale of bump stock devises such as those used in the Las Vegas shooting.