Local take on national politicsGun rights, homeland security and drones discussed
Sen. Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) began his town hall meeting at the Washington Public Library by telling the 100 or more participants that the meeting was theirs. He carried a legal pad to the podium and let the audience know that he was going to take notes on what they had to say. And he did.
The first man who spoke struck a chord with many in the audience. He told Grassley that he wants to make sure the Second Amendment will not be messed with by President Obama or Congress.
“American citizens are fed up,” the man said.
Grassley responded by saying what kind of legislation on gun control he would support and what he wouldn’t support. For example, he said he voted for a bill that included a provision for offering grant funds to school districts that want a police presence in the schools.
A few others in the audience spoke against the enhanced background check that has been proposed.
“I don’t want the government to know where the guns are,” Grassley said.
Local resident Rick Marlar switched the conversation to wondering why the Department of Homeland Security needs to purchase thousands of armored personnel carriers. As he held up a large photograph of the vehicle, he said that he is worried the vehicles will be used against Americans in their homes.
Grassley then fielded some opinions and questions about the use of drones against Americans in this country and abroad. When a specific case about the death by drone of a 16-year-old boy in Yemen was brought up, Grassley said that the United States Supreme Court ruled in the late 1940s that Americans who take up arms against the United States lose their constitutional rights.
The father of three sons who have served or are serving in the military said that one of his sons is due home within a couple of days. The father said his son’s deployment was “extended and extended and extended” and that he opposed the long deployments. He also said that broken equipment is one of the causes of lengthy deployments.
The audience began to turn to other topics, including sequestration and who is being impacted by the Sequester.
A woman talked about the impact to families and children and the closing of Heat Start programs. She said that surely enough funds could be found from a nation that is at war.
Grassley said he had a simple answer for her.
“We have promised more than we can afford,” he said.
When a man in the audience identified himself as a veteran, Grassley said that Veterans Affairs are not part of the Sequester.
Some brought up mental illness, school shootings and the risk someone with a mental illness has with losing his or her right to own a gun.
Another veteran said he is afraid that if he told his doctor he was a little depressed that his gun rights would be violated.
Grassley said that it is very difficult to be fair to everyone. He also said that a court would need to decide if mentally ill people would lose their gun rights.
Other issues raised included abortion, immigration reform, repeal of the Patriot Act, members of Congress gaining wealth through insider trading and the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
About abortion Grassley said that most of what’s going to be done will be done at the state level and that progress is being made by the growing understanding of the development of children in the womb.
As for immigration reform, Grassley said he wouldn’t vote for anything until the border is secure.
Grassley did not give an opinion on the Patriot Act because the law will come up for reauthorization in two years.
As long as Democrats dominate the Senate, Grassley doubts a Senate committee would subpoena former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. However, he said the House could issue a subpoena.
Congress passed a law or a rule prohibiting insider trading for members of Congress, Grassley said. He then talked about “a whole industry of financial spies” and that people operating as such should have to register just as lobbyists have to register.
At the end of an hour and with a page of handwritten notes, Grassley had to stop taking questions and comments. He was on his way to another engagement.