Iowa State Fair's gun ban to remain unchanged

Committee unlikely to take action, leaves matter up to legislature

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DES MOINES — The Iowa State Fair’s gun ban will remain unchanged unless lawmakers change state law, leaders of a state panel said Friday after a hearing on the subject.

The committee of state legislators that oversees the implementation and operation of state laws and rules on Friday reviewed the State Fair’s policy of banning weapons for attendees.

Leaders said the committee will not implement rules changes that would allow certified individuals to carry weapons during the state fair. Those leaders said such changes would have to be made by the full Iowa Legislature.

“There’s a rule by the fair board. We didn’t bring it up. It’s not ours,” said Iowa Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, chairman of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee. “It’s a fair board (rule). As far as I know, we will not consider the fair board rule one way or the other. It is a fair board rule.”

The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, had the rule review added to the committee’s agenda at the behest of a member of the public, she said.

Pettengill said the review was necessary because it appears to conflict with state law, especially after the 2011 change that made it easier for residents to obtain a permit to carry weapons in public.

“The reason we’re having the review is because it is in opposition to the law. So this committee, our function is to make sure that the rules match the law,” Pettengill said during the committee meeting. “Anybody who is not an attorney can look at the rule and look at the law and say it doesn’t match. So that’s our function.”

Pettengill said after the meeting however that the rules committee is unlikely to take any action, and that the matter will be up to the legislature.

Roughly a handful of members of the public came to the committee meeting to speak on the issue. Most opposed the possibility of changing State Fair rules to allow for certified individuals to carry weapons during the fair.

Richard Rogers, a board member for the Iowa Firearms Coalition, said during the hearing that the organization believes permitted residents should be able to carry weapons during the fair. Rogers said after the meeting the group will continue to seek a more open policy through changes to state law.

“We expect to pursue a legislative resolution to this to be made more permanent and more fitting,” Rogers said. “This has been an objective of ours for a long time, but it wasn’t the highest priority. We’ve been waiting for the right time.”

Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, said changing the policy to allow individuals to carry weapons during the fair would be dangerous due to the large number of attendees and the sale of alcohol on the grounds.

“So you very well could be drunk, walking around the fair with a gun,” Hunter said.

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