Senator Chuck Grassley released the following statement after President Obama released his proposals to curb gun violence. Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all victims of gun violence. Gun violence has no place in our society and existing law prohibits criminals and those with mental illness from owning guns. First and foremost, we need to ensure that these existing laws are enforced.
"The Second Amendment is more than just words on paper. It's a fundamental right that ensures citizens the ability to protect themselves against the government. Unfortunately, the President seems to think that the Second Amendment can be tossed aside. Using executive action to attempt to poke holes in the Second Amendment is a power grab along the same pattern we've seen of contempt for the elected representatives of the American people. Some of these directives clearly run afoul of limitations Congress has placed on federal spending bringing the President's actions in direct conflict with federal law. More importantly, it's hard to see how any of these executive actions would have prevented the tragedies that precipitated this effort.
"Instead of a thoughtful, open and deliberate conversation, President Obama is attempting to institute new restrictions on a fundamental constitutional right. It's an invitation for long, drawn-out court battles and more mistrust by the grass roots, and it's the wrong way to unite people behind a proposal on such a powerful and emotional topic. The legislative proposals face an uphill battle in Congress, especially those that include billions of dollars in new federal spending at a time when the government's credit card is maxed out.
"One area I agree with the President on is that a Senate confirmed head of the ATF would be beneficial, but if the Justice Department leadership, including the Attorney General, does its job, there should be plenty of accountability for the ATF. In addition, the last time the President nominated a Director for the ATF, we asked for information in June 2011 regarding the President's nominee, Andrew Traver, but the administration refused to respond. Neither the White House nor the majority attempted to move the nomination forward. They pushed for numerous nominees during the last Congress, but the ATF Director wasn't one of them. The new nominee, B. Todd Jones, is a familiar face to the committee, but his ties to the Fast and Furious scandal raise serious questions. Not to mention his involvement in the now infamous quid pro quo arrangement where the Justice Department bartered away valid False Claims Act cases in Minnesota. In any case, he'll receive a thorough and fair vetting by the Judiciary Committee.
"To top it off, it's intellectually dishonest for the White House to argue for new programs restricting the sale of guns, when this administration deliberately allowed the illegal sale of guns to known straw purchasers. And, if the President has the authority as he claims to take these actions via executive action, why did he wait until now? Why did it take so long to determine that current law wasn't being enforced? Why didn't the President push for these authorities after learning that one of his own employees at the ATF purchased a firearm, possibly violating federal law by putting false addresses on the paperwork?
"Looking ahead, Senator Leahy and I are preparing for a Judiciary Committee hearing after the Senate returns on aspects within our jurisdiction. It's important we explore in depth all aspects of this violence. It can't be done in a week by a few members of the President's administration. We must look at mental health and other societal issues which are critical to getting to the bottom of the violence we're seeing."