Grassley skeptical of background checks

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday said he opposed increasing background checks on gun owners, a key demand of President Obama and Senate Democrats.

Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued expanded background checks were an infringement on the Second Amendment.

“We have some background checks, it’s how encompassing do you do it,” Grassley said on CNN’s "Starting Point."

He said his panel, which has jurisdiction on gun laws and held its first hearing on Wednesday, should look at background checks but was skeptical of strengthening them.

“Do you do it for one father selling to a son or another relative? How do you cover everything? I think that’s the issue,” Grassley said. “You have private sales on Sunday between relatives and maybe you can’t access the system all of the time and as fast as you want to do it. But it’s something that’s going to get a good look and it ought to get a good look, but expanding it, I’m not sure that we know where we’ll go in that direction.”

Obama and gun control supporters argue tougher background checks would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to access guns. It is thought that background checks could be an area of gun control that could draw both GOP and Democratic support.

Grassley also said he opposed having the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct studies to measure the impact of firearms, which some argue falls under their purview as a public health issue.

“The Center for Disease Control is all about studying diseases, and ownership of guns is not a disease unless you look at mental health,” Grassley said.

CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien responded that a place like Chicago, with a high rate of gun violence, might benefit from a CDC study.

“I think that’s a place where you would study the issue within our society of black violence on blacks, as an example,” Grassley said. “And the amount of guns that are there, most of those guns are pistols and not the guns you’re talking about.”

O’Brien shot back that most of the high-profile mass shootings – Columbine, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown – have been white shooters.

Obama has called for a series of bills that would ban semi-automatic weapons with military features and high-capacity ammunition magazines, measures that face high hurdles in Congress.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and a group of Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to ban the sale and manufacture of more than 150 types of semi-automatic weapons with military-style features.

The legislation also bans magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and requires people who already own assault rifles to use secure storage and safety devices and bars them from selling high-capacity clips.

Grassley on Thursday said he opposes a new assault-weapons ban and that it couldn’t make it through Congress.