Proposals would further expand Iowa gun rights

Critics see 'constitutional carry' as public safety danger

The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Expanded last year, Iowa gun laws would undergo more significant changes — including doing away with government permits to carry a weapon — under proposals that won support Thursday from Senate Republicans.

Senate File 2106, which passed a Senate Judiciary subcommittee 2-1, would remove the general prohibition on carrying weapons without a permit as well as repealing the duty to carry a permit.

The legislation also repeals Iowa’s permit to acquire handguns and replaces it with a duty to comply with federal law for the acquisition of weapons, which includes a background check. A person still would be allowed to use a carry permit to acquire a gun.

“If you are legally allowed to own and possess firearms today in Iowa, you could legally carry that firearm without additional government interference or restrictions,” said Aaron Dohr of Iowa Gun Owners, who urged Iowa to join 13 other states that have “constitutional carry” laws on the books.

Brian Alexander, a Marion County farmer who supported the bill as “a no brainer,” said the most basic right is to defend yourself.

“A permit is just that — a permission slip from the government and, if the government has the power to give permission, then it follows that the government has the power to revoke or deny that permission,” Alexander added. “Our constitution does not give them that power.”

Opponents of the changes in SF 2106 argued the measures would endanger public safety.

“We see this as a major repeal of background checks in Iowa law and something that would go against the interest of public safety,” said Charlotte Eby, representing the advocacy group formed by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was severely wounded by a gunman who killed six others in 2011. “We also think this opens the door to unchecked sales of handguns and pistols and would make it easier for dangerous people to obtain guns easily.”

However, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America said states that have adopted similar laws to the one proposed in Iowa have seen good results.

“The concealed carry movement has resulted in declining violent crime,” he said. “We’re not changing the direction, we’re expanding the direction.”

Lobbyist representing religious groups spoke against the measure, and Tim Coonan of Every Town for Gun Safety Action Fund said his group opposed the bill because it sees the background check system as “effectively necessary.”

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, chairman of the subcommittee, said he supported the measure because he believes it recognizes Iowans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“There is a growing body of support across the country and here in Iowa included that you shouldn’t have to ask permission of the government if you are a law-abiding citizen to bear arms,” he said. “Regulations and laws only regulate good people.”

Schultz was also a member of a separate subcommittee that advanced Senate Study Bill 3155, which proposes an amendment to the Iowa Constitution stating that Iowa “affirms and recognizes the fundamental right of the people to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for all legitimate purposes. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

If a proposed amendment to the constitution is approved by the House and Senate in the same form in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature, it would go to voters their approval.

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