JOHNSTON — Gun issues were the dominant topic at Republican Senator Joni Ernst’s town hall meeting early Saturday morning in Johnston. Ellie Holland, a teacher in Johnston, was emotional as she told Ernst about going through active shooter training in her school last week.

“So my question for you today senator is when can I plan to get back to trainings that simply teach children to read and write?” Holland said and about half the crowd cheered.

Ernst answered Holland by emphasizing the need to improve mental health care.

“We need to make sure that those that are showing signs of instability are able to received treatment,” Ernst said. “And I would say that across the United States we are short counselors, we are short psychiatrists, we are short psychologists.”

Senator Joni Ernst.

A man in the crowd then yelled: “We’re short congresspeople to take action.”

The hour-long forum often featured Ernst speaking as critics in the crowd reacted or Ernst supporters in the audience cheering and applauding, including one person who occasionally rang a cowbell. Dawn Corrigan of Des Moines thanked Ernst for supporting the National Rifle Association and the right to own a gun.

“Let’s punish people for crimes and when some commits a crime, don’t come and take away my right for it,” she said, to cheers.

Ernst said Republican senators would review various proposals, but Ernst expressed concerns about ensuring so-called “red flag” laws that let courts order authorities temporarily seize guns include due process rights, to protect the wrongly accused.

“What we do have to make sure is those that are law-abiding citizens are still able to purchase weapons. It’s our second amendment right,” Ernst said, to cheers from half the crowd. “And that those that should not be able to gain access to weapons should not have the right, then, to purchase those weapons.”

Ernst made it clear she opposes a ban on the kind of rapid-fire guns used in El Paso and Dayton.

“Any weapon out there can be used to harm another person,” Ernst told the crowd. “…Who decides what is considered an assault weapon?”

Ernst told reporters there’s no law that will “magically” prevent irrational people with “evil intent” from committing murder.