Grassley proposes mental health intervention programs amid series of mass shootings
In the wake of several recent mass shootings, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley advocated Monday for more mental health intervention programs to identify dangerous individuals while still protecting the constitutional right to bear arms.
Grassley pointed toward the EAGLES Act, a bill he cosponsored in the 2019 and 2021 sessions, as a potential solution for gun violence. Spurred by the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the bill would require new research and staff training on school violence.
“It builds on a very successful program that the Secret Service has had for a few decades to train people to be alert to people that … might be a threat to themselves or to society, with or without a gun,” he said during an interview April 19 on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” show.
Grassley suggested that if more people could be identified as dangerous, they could be prevented from legally buying a firearm. “That if (the bill) was carried out, less people that have mental illness would have guns. They’d be in the FBI files and they couldn’t buy a gun legally …” he said.
However, criteria vary from state to state about who is disqualified from buying a firearm and not every buyer is subjected to a background check.
The bill has not been taken up in the Senate, nor was it taken up last session. Grassley said he also supports plans to improve the national criminal background check system.
There have been several mass shootings in America in recent weeks. On April 15, a gunman used legally purchased firearms to kill eight people at an Indianapolis FedEx location. A man opened fire in a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store on March 22, killing 10 people. Eight people died from several successive shootings in Atlanta on March 16.
Iowa, too, has had a high-profile brush with gun violence in the last month: An Iowa State trooper was shot and killed in a Grundy Center standoff on April 10.
Grassley recognized that, ultimately, gun restrictions would be decided by states and approved or rejected by the courts.
“We will find out over the next several decades the extent to which some state prohibitions or restrictions are constitutional or not,” he said.
He noted that the Supreme Court had been supportive of the Second Amendment.
“For the last 15 years, it’s pretty clear in the Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment, of the personal constitutional right for people to bear arms,” Grassley said. “Constitutional protection is very important.”
In Iowa, lawmakers have passed and Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a bill to allow individuals to purchase and carry handguns without a permit. The changes go into effect on July 1.
Grassley also weighed in on political censorship — “whether it’s conservative, liberal, or middle of the road” — by technology companies like Facebook, Twitter or Google
“It doesn’t take into consideration the discretion of American people to make a judgment of what they ought to believe or not believe,” he said.
He proposed eliminating Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that shields technology companies from lawsuits over third-party content.
“They’ve now become a monopoly,” Grassley said. “They shouldn’t be insulated against lawsuits.”
Grassley said although he believed the technology companies were monopolies, he wouldn’t go so far as proposing to break them up.