116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There’s a lot on the ballot this November. Public education, democracy, immigration, and the economy all hang in the balance depending on who is elected.
But in Iowa, there’s something literally on the ballot that could change the state forever. I’m talking about the proposed gun amendment that so far has attracted little publicity, because the sponsors are hoping to fly under the political radar and quietly get it passed.
Closer to the election, voters will no doubt be told in slick TV and radio ads that it’s just a reaffirmation of the Second Amendment, nothing to worry about, nothing to see here. But, like most things, “The devil is in the details.” And those details, could destroy the “Field of Dreams.”
Here’s what the proposed Amendment is:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be the subject to strict scrutiny.”
Here’s what the proposed Amendment isn’t. The gun lobby and those owned by them are pretending this wording simply adds the Second Amendment from the U.S. Constitution to Iowa’s Constitution. But as Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
During the last Legislature session, Republicans in the majority in both chambers had a chance to have voters add the exact language of the Second Amendment to the Iowa Constitution. They rejected that proposal. The Second Amendment wasn’t good enough. They wanted more.
They added the “strict scrutiny” wording to enhance the Second Amendment, and to make it impossible for future common-sense legislation to be passed even if future legislatures want to pass it and the public demanded it. Strict Scrutiny is the highest level of scrutiny a court must use in determining constitutionality.
Specifically, because of the last sentence of the proposed amendment, any reasonable restriction like keeping felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill from owning guns, gun free zones to keep guns out of schools and churches, red flag laws, universal background checks, magazine limits, and safe storage laws, would be impossible to pass without lengthy, and expensive litigation. The same gun lobby bringing us the gun Amendment would litigate to stop these laws.
If this amendment passes, Iowa will join only Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama with “Strict scrutiny” as the criteria for any gun legislation. These three states are now third, fourth, and fifth in the country for gun violence.
Here are five questions that voters should consider before voting for this Amendment.
1. Do we really want to have guns in our schools and churches?
2. Do the groups pushing this amendment live in Iowa?
3. Should mentally ill people have an unfettered right to carry a weapon?
4. Shouldn’t there be rules regarding how weapons are safely stored?
5. Should adolescents have no restrictions on the purchase of weapons?
Let’s clear something up. No one is coming to take guns away. I know people hear the rhetoric any time there’s a mass shooting. But It’s a threat so people donate to gun groups and buy more from gun stores.
The Second Amendment has done a good job protecting gun owners for over two hundred years. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This is about safety in our homes and on our streets.
Adding an needless amendment to the Iowa Constitution is like the old guy wearing suspenders and a belt. He looks ridiculous because he doesn’t trust one or the other. Iowa isn’t ridiculous. We are better than that.
Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and taught for 11 years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association Regional Director for 27 years until retiring.