Ernst town hall in Iowa gets contentious over guns

An Iowa town hall grew contentious on Saturday after Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections MORE (R-Iowa) responded to a question about school shootings with an answer emphasizing the need to deal with mental illness. 

Responding a question from a teacher who detailed her training for active shooter situations and then asked when she could get back to training children to read and write, Ernst said the nation had been through a number of difficult moments related to shootings as shouts of "do something" came from the crowd.

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"A lot of the incidents we've seen do come back to mental illness," Ernst said after discussing the 2009 killing of Ed Thomas, a high school football coach who was shot and killed by a former player who has struggled with mental illness.

A number of members of the town hall crowd in Johnston, Iowa, then shouted "no" at Ernst. 

"We need to be sure that those that are showing signs of mental instability are able to receive treatment," Ernst continued after shouts from the crowd subsided. 

At that point, there was more heckling from the crowd, including someone who shouted "what about the guns." As Ernst talked about a shortage of counselors in the country, someone in the crowd shouted, "We're short Congress people that take action."

As Ernst continued to answer the question and one man repeatedly interrupts her, another member of the crowd appeared to yell at him, saying, "If you don't have manners, get out.”

Ernst, who is up for reelection next year, said Congress would be reviewing various gun measures when it returns to Washington this fall.

According to Radio Iowa, she expressed some reservations about talk of "red flag" laws, which would allow authorities to go to court to temporarily seize guns from someone deemed to be a threat.

Ernst said it would be important to make sure such seizures did not go after people wrongly accused. 

“What we do have to make sure is those that are law-abiding citizens are still able to purchase weapons. It’s our Second Amendment right,” Ernst said. “And that those that should not be able to gain access to weapons should not have the right, then, to purchase those weapons.”

The Ernst town hall came just two weeks after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, recharged the national debate over gun control.