Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Gun control debate intensifies as Grassley crafts new bill

    Just Watched

    Why U.S. can't come together on gun laws

Why U.S. can't come together on gun laws 07:50

Story highlights

  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is putting together a new gun control bill
  • Grassley is skeptical of new background checks -- an issue at the heart of the debate
  • Grassley's bill could provide cover for red state Democrats and some Republicans
  • Obama urges Congress not to get "squishy" on gun control

A top congressional Republican is drafting alternative gun control legislation that threatens to undermine proposals now under consideration by leaders of the Senate's Democratic majority.

A spokeswoman for Iowa's Chuck Grassley refused to give CNN details of the senator's plan. In the past, however, he has backed measures to deter "straw purchases" to clamp down on gun trafficking. He also supports new safety provisions for schools.

Grassley is a staunch opponent of a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. He has also expressed skepticism about new background checks -- an idea at the heart of the current congressional debate.

"Sen. Grassley is putting together a bill to reduce gun violence without violating the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens," spokeswoman Beth Levine told CNN. "The bill is still being written, so we're not able to share it at this time."

The plan being put together by Grassley -- first reported by Politico -- further complicates the politics of gun control in Congress, where the National Rifle Association is extremely powerful.

Obama: 'Shame on us' if Newtown doesn't bring new gun laws

    President Barack Obama pushed new gun control legislation near the top of the legislative priority list in the wake of December's school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders were killed. But Democrats are struggling to find the 60 votes needed to push any new measures through the 100-member Senate.

    Alternative legislation from Grassley could provide cover for moderate Democrats from more conservative states looking to back some sort of bill not vehemently opposed by the NRA or other political heavyweights. It could also help firm up GOP opposition to more expansive legislation including background checks.

    Addressing gun control supporters at a White House event on Thursday, Obama accused gun rights activists of playing a crass game of political obstruction.

    "There are some powerful voices on the other side who are interested in running out the clock, or changing the subject," the president said. "Their assumption is that people will just forget about it" as Newtown recedes further into the past.

    If that happens, said Obama, then "shame on us."

    Opinion: Did we learn nothing from Newtown?

    The list of proposals backed by the president in the aftermath of Newtown includes expanded background checks, tougher laws against gun trafficking and straw purchases, and improving safety at schools. Obama also supports a renewal of the assault weapons ban, though that provision has been virtually abandoned by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

    The president on Thursday rejected arguments by opponents of the legislation that the measures under consideration by Democrats -- including background checks -- would strip Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms.

    "What we're proposing is not radical. It's not taking away anyone's gun rights," Obama said. Congress shouldn't get "squishy because time has passed and maybe (the issue's) not on the news every day."

    But much of what Obama considers "squishy" is seen by senators like Grassley as a principled defense of basic freedoms.

    "Throughout history, governments have wanted to shut up those who would criticize government, to suppress unpopular religions, or to disarm people," Grassley declared at a January 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

    "The Constitution for 225 years has established a government that is the servant of the people, not the master," he said. As "we consider and debate legislation arising (Newtown and other) tragedies, I hope that we will proceed with proper understanding of the relationship that the Constitution establishes between government power and individual liberty."

    Polls suggest Congress might have waited too long on gun control

        Gun control debate

      • Gun rights and gun control advocates largely agree there should be restrictions on mentally ill people obtaining firearms. The case of Myron Fletcher illustrates how difficult it is to put that into practice.
      • Six months after a gunman burst into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and slaughtered 20 children and killed six others, promises of stricter national gun control laws remain largely unfulfilled.
      • An undated photo of murder suspect Elliot Rodger is seen at a press conference by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff in Goleta, California May 24, 2014. Rodger, 22, went on a rampage in Isla Vista near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus, stabbed three people to death at his apartment before shooting to death three more in a terrorizing crime spree through the neighborhood. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

        Next time there's a mass shooting, don't jump to blame the National Rifle Association and lax gun laws. Look first at the shooter and the mental health services he did or didn't get, and the commitment laws in the state where the shooting took place.
      • Melvin Speight uses a camera scope run down a barrel to check the rifleing inside. Speight has been with Colt for 7 years.

        The sign at the door of the Colt factory displays a gun with a slash through it: "No loaded or unauthorized firearms beyond this point." Understandable for workers at a plant, but also a bit ironic, considering one of the largest arsenals in America lies just beyond.
      • clip inside man spurlock gun ownership_00004707.jpg

        Morgan Spurlock's "Inside Man" gives CNN viewers an inside and in-depth look at the issue of firearms -- as viewed from behind the counter of a gun store. Here are five things to know about the debate.
      •  	US President Barack Obama is accompanied by former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords (L), vice president Joe Biden (R) and family members of Newtown school shooting victims as he speaks on gun control at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2013. Obama on Wednesday slammed what he called a 'minority' in the US Senate for blocking legislation that would have expanded background checks on those seeking to buy guns. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

        The Senate defeated a compromise plan to expand background checks on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.
      • Jessica Ghawi

        As Congress grapples with major gun control legislation proposals, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers and children write about the people they loved and lost to gun violence and how it changed their lives.
      • Many Americans and lawmakers are in favor of continuing or expanding background checks on gun purchases, but few understand how the checks work.
      • Still stinging from the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook, Connecticut lawmakers approved what advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.
      • It took fewer than five minutes for Adam Lanza to squeeze off 154 rounds, upending life in Newtown, Connecticut, and triggering a renewed national debate over gun control.
      • A former drug addict turned anti-violence crusader, and a man who lost his father in a temple shooting. These are just two of many in the conversation.