Survivors and family members of victims of the January shooting in Tucson, Ariz. that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Wednesday to apologize for his "dismissive and political response" to a survivor's testimony, according to a letter obtained by Talking Points Memo.
"We write to express our profound disappointment with your dismissive and political response to Patricia's [Maisch] testimony, your obvious disregard for the gun violence survivors in the room, and your apparent ignorance of the deadly serious issue we came to discuss with you," reads the letter signed by 11 survivors and family members and victims of the Jan. 8 shooting.
Maisch helped disarm gunman Jared Lee Loughner during the shooting that killed six and wounded 13. Giffords survived a bullet to the head and has undergone months of intensive therapy.
The signers of the letter also wrote that they thought it was "inappropriate" for the senator to ask questions on the Justice Department's controversial "Fast and Furious" gun-running operation, which they argued was unrelated to the hearing on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), designed to prevent people with serious mental illnesses and drug abuse from buying guns. They also said that the fact that the senator was focused on his BlackBerry suggested that he did not listen to Maisch's testimony.
The hearing room "fell silent" Tuesday when Maisch spoke, according to NPR. "Changing the past is impossible, no matter how desperately we want to change it," she said. "But it would be a pitiful shame if no action were taken to change the future." The bill Maisch testified in favor of would allow the Department of Justice to withhold federal money from states that do not share arrest and mental health records with NICS.
Grassley responded to TPM in a statement, saying that he would "ensure that there are not more victims of gun violence as a result of the government's failed policies," referring to "Fast and Furious." Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed guns to "walk" across the U.S.-Mexico border from 2009 to 2010 in an effort to track them to Mexican drug cartels. Some of the guns have showed up at crime scenes in the U.S. and Mexico, and one was found at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
A report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns released Tuesday showed that millions of people barred by federal law from purchasing guns because of serious mental illness and drug abuse are never added to the federal system. Many states and state agencies do not cooperate with the system, and neither do federal agencies. According to the report, the 10th Amendment makes it so the federal government cannot force states to turn over records.