U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. (Jeff Cook/QUAD-CITY TIMES)


Legislation may be needed to improve the database used to do background checks on people who buy guns from federally licensed dealers, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told a group of Davenport West High School students on Friday.

Grassley met with the students for about an hour Friday as part of a weeklong series of town hall meetings Grassley has held around the state. He was in DeWitt on Thursday, and later on Friday, he went to Muscatine.

The Republican senator has been critical of President Barack Obama’s proposals to deal with school violence, which were unveiled Wednesday, particularly the ban on assault-style weapons. But he singled out improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is maintained by the FBI and holds 7.3 million records, as an area needing improvement.

Several of the president’s executive orders pertained to the database, which is widely considered to have flaws.

“I believe it’s very important to get this database so it really works,” Grassley said.

The president has proposed extending background checks to most private gun transfers, which have been estimated at

40 percent of all gun sales. Critics of the database say not requiring background checks for those transfers is the database’s main flaw.

The senator did not address that matter with the students, but he did say there may need to be action taken so states boost their reporting to the database.

The White House on Wednesday cited a recent Government Accountability Report that said 17 states had submitted fewer than 10 mental health records to the database.

As for an assault weapons ban, Grassley reiterated that he is opposed to it. Later, he told a reporter while that “may be legal ... I think it’s a slippery slope.” Grassley earlier this week said the president was tossing aside the Second Amendment.

“Whether it’s contrary to the Second Amendment or not, I will oppose going down that slippery slope,” Grassley said Friday. He added he has “a certain amount of distrust about whether (Obama) really believes in the Second Amendment. I don’t have proof of that, but that’s a suspicion I have.”

That comment echoes what Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday night. He said Obama “doesn’t have the guts” to say he opposes the Second Amendment.

Obama has said he supports the Second Amendment.

Otherwise, students quizzed the senator on topics ranging from the fiscal cliff, the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, the Affordable Care Act, school prayer and whether gay couples should have the right to adopt, among other topics.

Grassley said he meets with students at their schools because they don’t come to his town hall meetings.