Don't fast-track sweeping gun law changes

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Time for thoughtful debate has not been a hallmark of the 2017 General Assembly. We hope the urge to fast-track bills will ebb as lawmakers seek a new balance between gun ownership and public safety.

House Study Bill 133, proposed by the judiciary committee, is 41-pages. It amends and strikes several sections of the Iowa Code that relate to weapon permitting, gun ownership and criminal justice. The bill is so broad and, at times, convoluted that it cannot be fully explored in the space provided. As an example, pieces of code are amended in one section of the bill and, in a later section, struck completely and replaced with new text.

We focus on four notably troubling aspects.

Because Iowa law already includes self-defense protections, we reiterate “stand your ground” legislation is unnecessary.

Local law enforcement should offer periodic review of circumstances, such as mental illness or criminal conviction, that can trigger revocation or nonrenewal of weapon permits.

Lifetime weapon permits, as written into this bill, provide no opportunity for review and, therefore, do not serve the public interest.

Although media investigations using public records led to “shall issue” and subsequent statewide weapon permit expansion, the bill would make these records private.

We believe every Iowan — not just select members of law enforcement — should be able to find who is, and isn’t, being granted a permit. For victims of crimes like domestic violence, such knowledge is vitally important.

People charged with a simple misdemeanor — such as carrying drug paraphernalia or a weapon without a permit — face up to 30 days in jail and a fine. But under this bill, illegal weapon carrying garners only a fine. And producing a certificate from a weapon safety course results in dismissal of the case.

Instead of assigning curriculum to the weapon safety courses already required of Iowans seeking a permit, the bill specifically gives a nod to online certifications that often consist of brief, multiple-choice quizzes. There is no way of knowing who completed the quiz.

Meanwhile, many Iowa-based instructors offer comprehensive courses that better assure public safety.

An opportunity exists to make common-sense changes — reforms that balance the state’s responsibility for public safety with the rights of gun enthusiasts. As currently written, this bill tips the scales.

• Comments: (319) 389-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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