2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Poll finds support for Iowa gun laws; opposition to constitutional change

Handguns sit in a display case at Cedar Valley Outfitters in Marion on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Handguns sit in a display case at Cedar Valley Outfitters in Marion on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Ninety percent of Iowa gun owners who were surveyed support Iowa’s permitting requirement for carrying concealed handguns in public, and 92 percent of support the state’s background check requirement for all handgun sales, according to a poll released Monday.

“The vast majority of us recognize that our public safety laws are there for good reason,” said Katie Albrecht, volunteer chapter leader with the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is a part of Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund that conducted the poll.

“Lawmakers pushing to gut these common-sense measures are clearly out of step with Iowans from all around our state.”

However, a leading proponent of an amendment to add a right to bear arms to the Iowa Constitution questioned the validity of the poll.

“Without having been on the other end of the line to know the tone and inflection, and the way the questions were posed, just looking at the raw text of it, it’s clear to me some of those questions are what I would consider a push-poll” intended to get the response the sponsor wanted, said Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley.

Windschitl is leading an effort to amend the Iowa Constitution to add: “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 individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

Everytown found that by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters oppose adding the “strict scrutiny” language than support it. After the potential implications of the amendment were explained, 54 percent of Iowa voters indicated opposition to the proposal, compared with 28 percent indicating support.

Only three states — Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana — have adopted “strict scrutiny” language. Everytown contends the language is designed to undermine state and local public safety laws and threaten even the most basic laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers. Adding this extreme language to Iowa’s Constitution could eliminate core state gun laws, including Iowa’s handgun background check law and concealed carry permitting system, the group said.

Windschitl rejected that, pointing to the experience of the states with “strict scrutiny” language in their constitutions.

“They say our language could dismantle current firearm language. We haven’t seen that in other states,” he said. “In other states, they have had court challenges where the current restriction on violent offenders, domestic violence abuser, felons in possession of firearms have all been upheld.”

Rep. Tim Kacena, D-Sioux City, called the “strict scrutiny” language “putting a thumb on the scale of justice.”

It narrowly defines what is in the public interest, he said, adding, “This is what happens when we try to make policy out of ideology.”

The amendment, which must be passed by two consecutive General Assemblies before being placed on the ballot for voter approval, is an attempt at “righting that contract with the people,” Windschitl said.

“That’s what the Constitution is — a contract with the people saying this is what your government cannot do,” Windschitl said.

For more on the poll, visit https://everytown.org/documents/2019/02/iowa-polling.pdf.

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

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