Iowa gun advocates want to abolish gun-free zones, including in schools

Opponents say Iowa lawmakers are 'basically gutless' when dealing with gun lobby

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 20 children and seven adults dead, polls show public support for stricter gun control at a 10-year high.

However, gun rights advocates say they will push the Iowa Legislature to expand gun rights and abolish gun-free zones, including schools.

“The problem we have is there are too many so-called gun-free zones,” says Aaron Dorr of Iowa Gun Owners. “There are way too many areas where law-abiding Iowans are victims of the system because they are not allowed to defend themselves if something happens to them.”

That includes schools, Dorr says. The failure of gun-free schools should be evident in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, he says.

“Our position is that it is an undue burden to be shot in the back of the head while trying to protect students in your classroom because you are legally prohibited from protecting yourself,” Dorr says. Iowa Gun Owners is hearing from teachers “crying out to have the option of having a weapon in school because they are scared of being victims.”

“We’d have a problem with that,” Iowa Association of School Boards Executive Director Tom Downs says about the elimination of gun-free schools. The association also will oppose any attempt to carve out an exemption in the state’s concealed weapons law to allow teachers to have guns at school, Downs said.

In the days after the Newtown shooting, legislative leaders said they thought it was unlikely the Legislature would approve more restrictive gun laws.

Public opinion polling is mixed on the issue. A Pew Research Center poll found that by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin, Americans believe controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the 2nd Amendment right to own a gun. Gallup found that Americans believe other measures – more police in schools, expanded mental health services and decreasing the depiction of gun violence in the media – would be more effective than banning the sale of assault and semi-automatic weapons.

It’s more black and white for John Johnson of Cedar Rapids, the co-director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and formerly with the now-defunct Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence.

Johnson believes a majority of Americans support gun control, especially in the wake of a string of mass shootings.

The only demographic opposed is lawmakers,” Johnson says. “They’re basically cowards.”

Not all of them. Rep. Dan Mulbauer, D-Manilla, has called for a ban on assault and semi-automatic weapons and the confiscation of weapons owners don’t voluntarily give up.

Jeff Burkett of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, Inc., doesn’t see Mulbauer’s proposal as a live round.

“It appears he could use some education,” Burkett says. “It sounds like an emotion-based response” to Newtown.”

Johnson agrees it’s unlikely lawmakers will ban assault and semi-automatic weapons or require background checks for all gun ownership transfers or limit the capacity of ammo magazines.

Lawmakers “are basically gutless when it comes to standing up to the gun lobby,” he says.

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