Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley argued at Tuesday’s gun control hearing that Democrats were ignoring the voices of minority and female weapon owners in their attacks on the Second Amendment, “in a time when law enforcement response might be uncertain.”
Grassley (R-Iowa) made the remarks during his opening statement, in which he noted that, “Like many Americans, I cherish my right to bear arms.”
“In the dialogue about gun control, we rarely consider how many Americans are united in their advocacy and enjoyment of this right,” the top-ranking committee Republican continued. “I’m pleased to see women and gun owners of color make their voices heard in a time when law enforcement response might be uncertain.”
“The need for vulnerable populations to feel safe and be able to protect themselves is more important than ever,” he added, noting the divisions felt between minority communities and law enforcement that have been front and center since the racial justice protests last year.
Grassley’s comments came in the midst of a spirited debate between Democrats and Republicans on the emotionally charged issue, where tensions were only escalated by the news of two recent mass shootings.
During his questioning of Chris Cheng, winner of the History Channel’s “Top Shot” Season 4, the Iowa senator asked whether Asian Americans had ever turned to firearms for protection, appearing to reference the recent spike in hate crimes against the community.
Cheng, a professional shooter, answered by referencing the 1992 Los Angeles riots, saying that when the Koreatown neighborhood was burning, “the LAPD was under-resourced and unavailable to come to the aid of Korean Americans.”
“So what did they do? Korean Americans utilized their Second Amendment rights and took their own personal firearms and protected their businesses, their lives and their community,” he continued.
Grassley stressed during the hearing that he hoped divided Democrats and Republicans could find ways to work together in hopes of finding “bipartisan, common-sense” solutions, though many of the other lawmakers used their opening remarks to trade barbs.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) bemoaned the “thoughts and prayers” typically offered by “the other side,” Republicans, arguing that “now is the time for action to honor these victims — real action, not the fig leaves” usually offered.
In response, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed the Connecticut senator for his chiding of Republicans, noting that “every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders.”
Blumenthal, Cruz continued, “knows that” his assessment that Republicans only offered “fig leaves” on gun control was “false,” going on to reference the bill he proposed with Grassley to get guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill.
The Texas Republican went on to note that the bill, introduced in 2013, earned nine Democratic senators’ support.
The committee is meeting for a well-timed hearing on gun violence, which focused on considering “public health, law enforcement, and community-based approaches aimed at saving lives and making communities safer.”
The hearing was scheduled last Tuesday, the same day as the Atlanta spa shootings that left eight dead and one wounded.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said last week that he intends to hold a series of hearings on the matter, though they will be overseen by Blumenthal, who chairs the subcommittee on the Constitution.
“We’ll be looking into constitutional, common-sense solutions to address domestic violence, safe storage, immunity for gun manufacturers, and more,” Blumenthal said at the time.
The hearings come following a series of legislative pushes in the House on gun legislation, including passing universal background checks.
Under current Senate rules, each of those bills would need to clear the 60-vote threshold set by the legislative filibuster.
The current 50-50 split between the two parties leaves Democrats in need of 10 Republicans to pass any major legislation, which they don’t appear to have on any of the House-approved bills yet.