Branstad expects to sign firearms bill following review

Legislation makes 'monumental' changes to Iowa's gun laws

(FILE PHOTO) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad makes remarks at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washingt
(FILE PHOTO) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad makes remarks at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington in 2014. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he expects to sign legislation making major changes to Iowa’s firearms laws but he is reserving judgment until he and his staff have time to review the provisions of House File 517 that received final House approval on Thursday.

“Obviously, we want to review it in its final form, but generally I’ve been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and I believe the legislation passed with bipartisan support with a pretty strong margin,” Branstad said in an interview. “I’m inclined to be supportive but I want to reserve judgment until I get a chance to review it in its final form.”

Branstad said he had some concerns with the original version passed by the Iowa House but those were addressed in changes adopted by the Iowa Senate that were accepted by representatives Thursday before sending it to his desk for consideration.

“It looks pretty good,” the governor said.

Included in House File 517 is a controversial “stand your ground” provision that states a law-abiding citizen does not have a duty to retreat in a public place before using deadly force when confronted with danger to life or property.

The bill also would allow children below the age of 14 to handle pistols or revolvers under the supervision of an adult parent, guardian or instructor; pre-empt local ordinances restricting gun rights; create a uniform permit to carry weapons; provide for five-year permits to acquire handguns rather than single-year permits; and create confidentiality for those with permits, legalize short-barreled rifles and shotguns and allow those with permits to carry handguns in the Iowa Capitol and other public buildings.

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann praised Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Windschitl and House and Senate Republicans for their work in shepherding the bill through both chambers of the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion. He called the bill “the most monumental piece of pro-Second Amendment legislation in Iowa’s history.”

Earlier in the week, members of Iowans for Gun Safety expressed concerns about the bill and on Friday, the Rev. Jeremy J. Brigham, executive director of the organization, wrote Branstad a letter urging him to veto the bill.

“This bill is particularly dangerous to men of color, women and children and many from these communities have joined us in speaking out,” Brigham said in his letter.

“Gov. Branstad, we believe it is particularly important that you veto this bill. As ambassador to China, like your predecessors, you will be asked to protect the rights of minorities in China. This bill ... threatens the rights of minorities in Iowa and we ask that you veto this bill and protect the rights of minorities in Iowa.”

If the bill becomes law, members of the Iowa Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said Iowa will become only the second state to enact a new “stand-your-ground” law since the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.

“In the weeks since this bill was introduced, lawmakers have listened thoughtfully to the widespread concerns about certain portions of it, and we’re grateful they removed dangerous sections that would have gutted Iowa’s background check and permit-to-carry requirements,” said Amber Gustafson of the Iowa Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

"Still, we remain deeply concerned that the stand-your-ground and punitive pre-emption portions of this bill would leave our communities less safe,” Gustafson added in a statement. Stand-your-ground laws embolden people to escalate everyday disputes, and the statistics from states that have passed them are deeply troubling. We’ll be urging the governor to keep our state from following their concerning lead.”

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