Government

Iowa lawmakers support Second Amendment, but differ on inclusion in Iowa Constitution

'I think our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing'

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, right, and Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, discussed gun rights legislation Thursday, March 29, 2018, during taping of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press that will air this weekend. James Q. Lynch/The Gazette
Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, right, and Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, discussed gun rights legislation Thursday, March 29, 2018, during taping of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press that will air this weekend. James Q. Lynch/The Gazette

JOHNSTON — Iowa House members on opposing sides of a proposal to add gun rights language to the Iowa Constitution found common ground on preserving the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“To put it very simply, I believe Justice Stevens gets it wrong,” Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said about a proposal by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to repeal the Second Amendment.

Americans have an “inalienable” right to self-defense, Windschitl said, so when Stevens is advocating for the repeal of the federal Second Amendment, “what he is advocating for is basically the repeal of a natural law. The Second Amendment is merely a protection of that natural right.”

“I think our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they put that in the Constitution,” Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, said Thursday during taping of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press that will air this weekend. However, Smith allowed that it might be time to “take a closer look and make sure it’s relevant to today’s society.”

When it was written, muskets were state-of-art, Smith said. Weapons today can cause “mass casualties in the blink of an eye. That wasn’t a real relevant factor when the Second Amendment was written.”

Saying he was an avid hunter — “me and my shotguns, we’re close” — Smith said Second Amendment rights must be balanced against other rights.

“When does that trump our right to feel safe?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t think it’s about stopping the protection of the public,” Windschitl said. “You’re not necessarily going to get those safer schools or safer communities by taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

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Iowa needs Second Amendment language in its constitution to protection Iowans from Justice Stevens and others who would repeal restrict gun rights, Windschitl said. He’s the sponsor of House Joint Resolution 2009 that would add “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” to the Iowa Constitution.

The Constitution “is a contract with the people to say, this is what your government cannot do in restricting your rights,” he said. It’s a disservice to Iowans if the Constitution is silent on gun rights.

HJR 2009 has been approved by the House and Senate. If it is approved by the next General Assembly, it will be on the ballot for ratification by voters in 2020.

Smith called the resolution “extreme,” especially because it includes language requiring courts to apply “strict scrutiny” to any restriction on gun rights. That could open the door for challenges to existing gun laws as well as make it difficult to enact what Smith called “common sense” legislation.

Iowa Press can be seen 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday on IPTV, 8:30 a.m. Saturday on IPTV World and online at www.IPTV.org.

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

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