IOWA LEGISLATURE

Bill would allow guns in vehicles at Iowa workplaces, schools

A Glock Model 22, .45 caliber pistol (file photo)
A Glock Model 22, .45 caliber pistol (file photo)
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DES MOINES — Gun rights, property rights and religious liberty collided in an Iowa Senate subcommittee Thursday.

In the end, the Second Amendment prevailed as the panel advanced Senate File 459 that would prohibit employers from banning employees from carrying firearms to the job site if they have permits to carry. Employees would have to keep the firearms and ammunition out of sight and inside a locked vehicle.

Later, another subcommittee signed off on a bill allowing people with a permit to carry to have a gun in their vehicle when transporting children to and from school if they remain in the vehicle in a parking area or driveway.

In both cases, Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said the intent was to allow “hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Iowans to enjoy their constitutional rights.”

Business, religious and domestic violence interests objected to the bill, arguing it would usurp private property rights and, in the cases of houses of worship, possibly conflict with religious tenets.

However, Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said the Legislature shouldn’t pick and choose who has gun rights and who doesn’t. Although he might disagree with the prohibition on employers, state law should be consistent in its treatment of the gun rights of Iowans.

“We’re all in this together,” Bisignano said. “Until we decide that we want more restrictions, then restrictions should be few and far between.”

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Current law does not prohibit carrying an unloaded gun in a vehicle or an empty, cased weapon on school grounds, said Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition.

Besides, the presence of guns does not necessarily make people less safe, said Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel.

“You’re around guns all days long. You’re around guns in this room,” he said. Guns are allowed in the Capitol. “Iowans frequently carry guns. When you’re in the grocery store, chances are someone is carrying. It doesn’t make us any less safe.”

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry lobbyist Brad Hartkopf said the decision whether to allow guns at work, including employee parking lots, should be up to individual businesses, not the state.

If an employee is dismissed and escorted from the workplace, “do you want them to have access to a weapon immediately?” he asked.

“People leave this building losers all the time,” Bisignano responded. “They’re angry. We may have taken away their livelihood in some cases.”

However, just as there are limits on free speech, Second Amendment rights can be limited, too, said Jane Robinette of Urbandale. Carrying weapons to work is just a matter of convenience, she said.

“We have to balance convenience with public safety,” Robinette told lawmakers.

In the case of schools, Paula Blake of Johnston, who taught for 39 years, said it’s an inconvenience for teachers and other school personnel to have to lock down schools because someone with a gun is near or in the building.

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But those people are criminals, not the law-abiding citizens who would benefit from SF 459 and SF 116, argued Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton.

She said she has a permit to carry for self-defense and the protection of her children,

“To suggest I would cause a lockdown is offensive,” she said.

Both bills now move to the full Judiciary Committee. House leaders said they are open to considering the bills if the Senate approves them.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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