Tucson Shooting Survivors Demand Apology For Sen. Grassley's "Dismissive" Behavior

November 16, 2011 4:56 pm ET — Matt Gertz

In a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) obtained by Political Correction, 11 survivors of January's Tucson, Arizona mass shooting who attended yesterday's hearing on the Fix Gun Checks Act demand an apology from the senator for his "obvious disregard for the gun violence survivors in the room" and "apparent ignorance of the deadly serious issue we came to discuss with you."

More than 50 gun violence survivors traveled to Capitol Hill yesterday for a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the bill, which would require a background check for every gun sale and facilitate getting into the federal background check system all mental health records that would prohibit gun ownership.

But Grassley virtually ignored the hearing's topic during his opening statement, instead offering repeated criticisms of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) failed Operation Fast and Furious. He also questioned a witness from the FBI on the operation. In their letter, the survivors say: "Our experiences have nothing to do with Fast and Furious. But you did not seem to care."

The survivors also criticize Grassley for repeatedly consulting his BlackBerry during passionate testimony from Tucson survivor Patricia Maisch, suggesting that he ignored her comments about the victims who lost their lives that day. In a statement to Political Correction yesterday, Lori Haas, who works with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and whose daughter was shot during the Virginia Tech attack, called Grassley's behavior "callous and insulting."

Video of Grassley's opening statement, Maisch's statement, and Grassley's questioning is available here.

From the letter:

We write to express our profound disappointment with your dismissive and political response to Patricia's 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.

Senator, we think it was inappropriate of you to immediately turn yesterday's hearing into a reason to ask questions about an unrelated inquiry on the controversy known as "Fast & Furious." We were not there to discuss Fast & Furious. The other witnesses were not there to discuss Fast and Furious. Our experiences have nothing to do with Fast and Furious. But you did not seem to care.

Rather than dealing with the subject of the hearing -- how the background check system can be improved to spare other families the pain that we have suffered -- you chose to employ a tactic of callous, cold and calculated distraction.

Senator, were you listening when Patricia told you about Dorothy Morris, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck, the Honorable John Roll of the United States District Court of Arizona, Gabe Zimmerman or Christina-Taylor Green? Nothing you had to say indicated you were. The fact that you were focused on your Blackberry during much of Patricia's testimony suggests you weren't. [...]

We ask that you apologize to the members of our group who lost loved ones in Tucson, and made the effort to come to Washington yesterday, but heard nothing of use from you.