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Iowa minorities fear proposed stand-your-ground law
DES MOINES - Rep. Matt Windschitl wants to 'protect Iowans at all costs” by enacting sweeping changes to the state's gun laws.
But the majority of speakers at a hearing Thursday said it likely would endanger Iowans, especially those of color.
Windschitl chaired a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on House Study Bill 133, which includes stand-your-ground provisions, removes the renewal requirement for permits to carry firearms and allow minors of any age to handle a handgun in the presence of a parent or guardian.
Laural Clinton of Des Moines was one of several African Americans to speak against the bill out of fear they'll become 'target practice” if the stand-your-ground provisions become law.
As the mother of three sons - one she described as 'that black kid in a hoodie that everybody fears” - Clinton, who has a permit to carry, said the bill scares her.
Renaldo Johnson of Clive, another gun owner, found aspects of the law 'concerning to me as a black person.” His concern is in allowing the use of deadly force if a person perceives his or her life is threatened.
Describing himself as a 'large, black male,” Johnson said he's afraid that if someone feels threatened by him, 'I'm on the ground with a bullet in my chest.”
Several speakers pointed out that in states with stand-your-ground laws the number of people killed has increased.
'I have no problem with the Second Amendment,” Johnson said, adding that if the bill is approved 'black people should be highly educated in regard to this and armed.”
Lawmakers heard from supporters of the proposed legislation, too.
Barry Snell of the Iowa Firearms Coalition called it a 'dramatic and historical step forward toward abolishing the Second Amendment as a second-class right in the state of Iowa.”
Sport shooters Natalie and Meredith Gibson encouraged adoption of the provision that allows children younger than 14 to handle handguns under supervision.
'We're not trying to form a toddler militia,” Meredith said in reference to the name opponents have used to describe that section.
The subcommittee also heard from representatives of colleges, hospitals and cities that oppose the proposed pre-emption of their local rules against weapons in their facilities. Robert Palmer of the League of Cities said many acts have no-weapons clauses in their contracts.
Law enforcement and prosecutors raised concerns, but kept coming back to the stand-your-ground language.
David Walker, a retired Drake University Law School dean, said Iowa's 'castle doctrine” already allows Iowans to use deadly force if they reasonably believe their life is endangered in their home or car.
Adopting the bill would not enhance Iowa law or public safety, he said. It would, however, 'add a psychological element. It will be seen as an encouragement ... and make people more trigger-happy.”
Subcommittee member Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, a criminal defense lawyer, said Iowa's castle doctrine is for 'all intents and purposes a stand-your-ground law” that does not require Iowans to retreat unless they can without endangering themselves or others.
Regardless of what current law does or doesn't allow, Mark Maxwell of A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education of Iowa - or ABATE - said his group welcomes passage of the bill 'because we don't fear good people with guns.”
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