Iowa Legislators Move to Protect Gun Owners by Amending State Constitution
While last month’s school shooting in Florida led to new gun laws in that state and a renewed nationwide push for gun control, lawmakers in another state recently took the opposite approach.
According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa state legislators pushed through a resolution earlier this month that supporters hope will result in a ballot measure allowing citizens to vote for a “right to bear arms” to be added to the Iowa Constitution.
Lawmakers in the state House and Senate voiced their opinions on the resolution during periods of intense debate prior to votes by both chambers to advance the legislation.
According to the language included in the resolution, the state “affirms and recognizes” the constitutional right to bear arms.
The language fits in a tweet: "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."
— Barbara Rodriguez (@bcrodriguez) March 19, 2018
In emphasizing the position that this right “shall not be infringed,” Iowa could become the fourth state to impose “strict scrutiny” on any and all effort to restrict gun ownership.
That phrase caused much of the consternation among opponents of the measure, with several Democrats suggesting a new amendment could present additional hurdles in efforts to require permits or improve background checks.
A GOP backer in the Senate, however, said it is up to the voters to determine if the amendment goes too far.
“I trust the Iowa voter,” said state Sen. Brad Zaun. “They are going to tell us if they don’t like the language in front of us. They are going to tell us how important their Second Amendment rights are.”
As Democrat state Sen. Tony Bisignano said, the fear among some opponents is that supporters are looking at the Second Amendment in absolute terms and without critical context.
“Can you envision what arms will look like in 150 years?” he asked. “What we have today for arms is beyond their imagination.”
One Democrat critic called his Republican colleagues “tone deaf” in pushing a resolution he said made it seem as though they were preparing for a “zombie apocalypse.”
State Sen. Matt McCoy said that lawmakers “haven’t even figured out how to secure our school buildings yet” and should not be pursuing constitutional amendments further expanding gun rights.
A Republican counterpart, however, seemed to link demographics to gun violence rather than access to firearms.
“In the big majority of counties around the United States, there are no murders, or maybe one in a given year,” said state Sen. Julian Garrett. “It is only in concentrated areas where we have these murders.”
In the case multiple school shootings, however, including the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland County, killers have attacked in typically safe communities.
A joint resolution to advance the amendment process passed by a vote of 54 to 42 in the House before advancing to the Senate, where it passed 34 to 15.
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