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From left to right, Amazon site leader Matt Smith and general manager Jason Speedy lead R-Collinsville Congressman John Shimkus and D-Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin on a tour of the Amazon Edwardsville fulfillment center on Thursday.

CHARLESTON -- U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, is making the rounds across his district. On a quick stop to the area Thursday, he rejected what he considers "attacks" that he is inaccessible to constituents.

It has been stated by local groups such as Charleston Women's Huddle Actions and JG-TC letters to the editor writers in recent months that Shimkus has been less than willing to listen to concerned constituents either through a town hall meeting or by letter.

"I take it for the time of period we are in with certain groups. I have met with all of these folks earlier in the last year, in essence, numerous times," he said. "It is not about accessibility. They just don't like my policy."

In a letter to the editor, Stacey Knight-Davis of Charleston said a lack of a response is common for the congressman.

"I am making this letter public because everyone in our group had called and written Mr. Shimkus’s office several times and received no response," she said in her letter.

Skimkus said he never heard that claim. If it is on a specific issue, the congressman said he and his staff compile them and try to respond as a whole to those sending in letters, he said.

Shimkus also addressed his stance on town meetings, which had become a sought-after platform to speak to him for some locals with more Democratic-leaning views.

"We meet with people on a one-on-one basis and that is what we have historically done," he said. "The first group that was pretty upset about the town hall meeting debate was the tea party, the far-right conservative groups, and we told them the same thing."

Discussing other matters, Shimkus voiced his concerns with the tariffs that President Donald Trump has put on the table but applauded the leader's initiative to tackle the steel trade issue with China and European countries.

"Steelworkers have been unfairly attacked by the dumping of Chinese steel," Shimkus said. "We have been trying to convince the president to make a targeted response to this and go after the bad actors. Let's don't just devolve into a trade war."

To address the illegal dumping of steel by the Chinese, Shimkus said he is not sure of any response other than tariffs.

The Chinese steel industry has been accused of "dumping" cheap steel onto global markets, due to a slowdown in domestic demand, in a bid to gain market share, CNBC reported.

Shimkus is appreciative that the president is addressing the issue, but hopes it doesn't end with blanket tariffs.

Trump has taken a more protectionist stance on handling trade with global neighbors, causing some concern of a trade war, with many warning of a similar situation to what happened with the Smoot-Hawley Act, a large package of tariffs that many studies cite as a major reason for the depth of the Great Depression, according to Business Insider.

"That is why targeting is important," Shimkus said. "Target the actors that are not complying with law."

According to Shimkus, district farmers, who would be most affected by tariffs, are only concerned at this point.

"My producers are not totally freaking out yet," Shimkus said. "I think they will if tariffs get enacted."

Trump administration late Monday postponed the tariffs on imported aluminum and steel that were set to take effect Tuesday.

In the interview Thursday with the JG-TC, Shimkus also affirmed his support of the Second Amendment and opposition toward much of the gun-related legislation that Democrats seek to bring to the table.

"I am not inclined to be supportive of any additional restrictions," he said.

However, he noted his support of the Fix NICS Act signed into law, which was designed strengthen the national federal background check system. The law requires federal and state authorities to comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

He said he is also in favor of looking at ways the country handles mental illness.

Currently, the congressman is focusing on his latest bill, a reform of the Nuclear Waste Policy, which he said is an attempt to solve what he deems the nuclear waste problem in the country.

Contact Jarad Jarmon at (217) 238-6839. Follow him on Twitter: @JJarmonReporter

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Reporter

Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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