Iowa State Fair gun ban is fine, Branstad says

'We have excellent security'

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DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he supports the Iowa State Fair’s weapons ban, but he declined to say whether he would approve changes to state law that would permit certified residents to carry weapons during the fair.

The issue was raised Monday during Branstad’s weekly news conference at the Iowa Capitol. On Friday, a rules committee of state legislators discussed the State Fair policy that prohibits people from carrying weapons on the grounds during the fair.

Branstad said he supports the fair policy because he thinks the fairgrounds are safe because of the heavy presence of Iowa State Patrol officers.

But Branstad demurred when asked if he would oppose legislation that would permit fairgoers to carry weapons.

“I support the right to carry, but I think the fairgrounds is a little different situation because we have such phenomenal coverage from the highway patrol at the fair,” Branstad said. “So, it’s not like other places where you have nobody with a firearm to protect somebody against a violent act. We have excellent security, and I think the patrol does a great job. And because of that, I think that’s the reason why you really don’t need to have your own firearm for your protection at the fair.”

The legislative rules committee is unlikely to change the policy, said the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, who added the discussion to Friday’s meeting agenda. She said any changes likely will have to be made through changes to state law, which would require action by the Iowa Legislature and governor.

Richard Rogers, a board member for the Iowa Firearms Coalition, said after Friday’s hearing that the organization will press state lawmakers for changes in state law to allow permitted individuals to carry weapons during the fair.

Branstad did not say Monday whether he would approve such a proposal.

“I understand that there may be issues come before the Legislature on that,” he said. “I’m just going to say that I’ve gone to the state fair for decades and decades, and I just want to compliment the fair board and the Department of Public Safety, our state troopers. They do a phenomenal job.”

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