Disarray and frustration erupted at Rep. Chris Stewart’s town hall Wednesday at North Salt Lake City Hall, where angry constituents questioned the Utah Republican on gun violence, President Donald Trump’s racist tweets and the economy.
The verbal melee started soon after one constituent asked Stewart how he could keep school children safe in the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 31 dead.
In response, Stewart declared he condemns white supremacy and racism. But a shouting match broke out as one constituent asked why he voted against a non-binding House resolution condemning Trump’s tweets about four non-white House members.
“I didn’t vote ‘No’ to condemning Trump’s racism,” Stewart said. “By your question, you are implying that I’m a racist.”
Multiple audience members shouted their anger over Trump’s anti-immigrant stance, saying his rhetoric incites violence. Stewart responded that Trump himself has not committed violence—a remark that ignited pandemonium. Stewart declared he would walk out of the meeting if the catcalling did not stop.
He argued that increasing federal funding could be a viable solution to protecting students, and that red flag laws, which allow authorities to remove gun access from persons who have been deemed dangerous, could be another approach.
Under a red flag law—which Trump supported in his remarks about recent mass shootings—a family member could alert authorities, and within 72 hours, a judge would decide whether to pull the suspect’s access to guns, Stewart said.
The 2nd District congressman reiterated his commitment to upholding the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to own firearms but pointed to certain instances where gun rights could be curtailed. He noted his previous disapproval of bump stocks—used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting which left 58 people dead.
“In that case, we looked at bump stocks. I didn’t even know what a bump stock was and, by the way, I’m a shooter,” Stewart said. “This simulates a fully automatic weapon, that should be illegal for anyone to have without some type of regulation.”
Asked about the nation’s rising deficit, Stewart responded that one of his primary reasons for running for office in 2012 was to help solve the problem. Chaos broke out once again after Stewart claimed that, after the passage of the GOP-backed tax cuts, government revenues increased while “90% of Americans paid less in federal income taxes.”
Studies indicate around 65% of Americans paid less in taxes, according to The New York Times.
“The problem is … we’re just spending too much.” Stewart declared. “The good news is, President Trump came to office as a businessman and he has leveraged businesses his entire life—he’s not afraid of debt.”
The meeting again devolved into a shouting match, with many constituents questioning Trump’s record as a businessman.
“Tell him to pay El Paso ... he hasn’t even paid for his rally there,” one woman shouted. “He screws over everybody; he doesn’t pay anybody!”
One woman, who said she is Jewish, said Trump’s racist comments and his white supremacist following harkened to the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany that led to Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship. She began to cry but was consoled by the people near her. A constituent shouted at her that Trump has Jewish ancestry, which is false.
Stewart also touched on topics such as the perils of artificial intelligence, tariffs, military spending, suicide prevent, election security and the Mueller report. He also said he’d like to see the end of Senate filibustering, even if Democrats should regain control in that chamber.
In the town hall’s last question, a constituent asked if the findings of the Mueller report justify an impeachment inquiry.
“The Democrats control the House, they are free to do that,” Stewart responded. “And I pray they do—because if they did, you guarantee Donald Trump will be re-elected.”