NEW HARTFORD — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he supports President Trump’s visit today to El Paso, Texas, following one of last weekend’s two mass shootings that left 31 people dead.

Some residents and elected leaders in El Paso object to the president’s visit, claiming Trump’s anti-immigrant comments likely sparked or contributed to the gunman’s actions. Grassley disagrees.  “I think every president has visited those areas,” Grassley says. “I think it’s necessary for the leader of the country to express the sympathy of the American people to these violent crimes and things that happen that are abhorrent and evil.”

Grassley, a Republican, says if the president did -not- go to Texas to pay his respects, he’d be “roundly criticized.” During a political fundraiser at a Crawford County shooting range on Monday night, Grassley renewed his call for so-called red flag laws, which would make it harder for people who are a threat to buy guns.  “There’s been several states that have passed red flag laws and they kind of set an example for Congress,” Grassley says. “Congress can actually learn from some state experiments, like we did with criminal justice reform.”

Reports say 17 states have now passed red flag laws allowing a family member or law officer to petition a judge to rule on whether to remove guns from someone who is a threat to themselves or someone else. After the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers in February of 2018, Grassley told Radio Iowa he would hold hearings on a variety of bills designed to prevent gun violence. There’s been little progress on any red flag legislation in a year and a half. “We need to concentrate on what can get 60 votes,” Grassley says. “A lot of people would like to waste their time on other bills that can’t get 60 votes, but if we could assume getting done what can get done, then it has a chance of passing.”

Republican Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa’s other U-S senator, released this statement: “I agree with the president that we must strongly condemn hate in all forms and stand united in the wake of these acts of violence. While there’s no quick fix guaranteed to prevent future tragedies, there are bipartisan efforts we can build upon, and I am open to reviewing proposals that will have a real and positive impact while ensuring we defend the rights of Americans, including that of due process.”