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Iowa House removes restrictions on youths handling handguns

Measure would create same standards as those for rifles, shotguns

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DES MOINES — With strong bipartisan support, the Iowa House approved a package of gun-related legislation Tuesday that a key backer said are “advancing the cause of 2nd Amendment rights and allowing Iowans to have freedoms they rightfully deserve.”

Opponents, however, said the bills to allow youth greater access to handguns, legalize suppressors and carrying loaded guns on snowmobiles and ATVs, limit government authority to curtail the use of firearms during emergencies and make gun permits secret did not pass the “common sense test” or address Iowans’ priorities of increasing opportunities for education, jobs and economic growth.

Rep. Matt Windschitl. R-Missouri Valley, said Iowans’ priorities were represented by people — many wearing orange “I support the 2nd Amendment and I vote” stickers — on hand for the debate.

“These are folks that are the NRA. This is the Iowa Firearms Coalition,” he said. “These are Iowans that want us to be passing these bills.”

Windschitl’s bill, House File 2314, to streamline the gun permit process and make them confidential records was approved 97-1. It was the fifth gun-related bill approved Tuesday morning, the fourth with the support of at least two-thirds of representatives.

The most controversial was HF 2281, which Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, said would “correct an injustice in Iowa Code” by allowing parents to let their children younger than 14 handle handguns in the same way state law permits them to use rifles and shotguns.

However, Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, called it an abdication of lawmakers’ “responsibility to protect children from poor parenting.”

“While most parents would not allow their two-year-old wield a revolver, we pass laws for those parents who lack the parenting skills needed to protect their own children,” Mascher said. “We have done that with seat belts laws, car seats, smoking, drinking, driving (and) many other areas where we felt the state needed to intervene to protect children.”

The bill was not about whether young children should be handling handguns, Highfill countered, but about parental rights.

“It returns power back to where it fully belongs, back in the hands of the parents,” Highfill said, adding that HF 2281 was “one of the best bills we’ve done.”

The bill passed 62-36 with five Democratic votes.

They may not be as easy to come by in the Democratic-controlled Senate, according to Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Sodders, D-State Center.

The suppressor bill, HF 2279, is “likely doable,” he said, because the Senate passed it a year ago.

“The others, I’ll have to see how they are written,” Sodders said. “They could be a heavier lift.”

He likes much of HF 2314 that streamlines the process for Iowans to get permits to carry weapons. About 253,000 Iowans have permits to carry, Windschitl said, and about 100,000 will be renewing those permits this year.

However, Sodders is worried that the section of the bill that makes those permits secret will be a problem, especially for senators concerned with domestic assault. Windschitl said that has been addressed. If a domestic violence victim takes a no-contact order to the sheriff they can learn if their abuser has a permit.

Both Windschitl and Sodders noted the bill does not change current law that does not require Iowans have a permit to own a gun.

The House also approved:

• HF 2280 67-31 to restrict the governor from restricting Iowans use of firearms during an emergency

• HF 2283 78-20 to allow Iowans with a carry permit to have a loaded weapon while operated their snowmobile or ATV. No permit would be required for people on their own property.

• HF 2279 74-24 to allow the use of suppressors as long as Iowans met federal standards, which include an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive, a background check and fingerprints, and a $200 transfer tax.

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