Republicans Steve Holt and Jarad Klein approved a bill through subcommittee on Monday morning to address local governments having more restrictive laws on shooting ranges and possessing firearms where they would otherwise be lawful.
Holt said the bill allows political subdivisions to restrict possession if arrangements are made for screening and armed personnel. It prohibits regulating the storage of weapons and ammunition.
The bill provides any supreme court and judicial branch policy that prohibits a person from going in the county courthouse or other joint-use facility should be unenforceable unless the courtroom, court office or courthouse is used only for judicial branch functions.
Robert Palmer of the Iowa League of Cities addressed two areas he hoped to bring to the attention of legislators. He is concerned about one section of the bill that removes a city’s ability to require additional information above state law when establishing a shooting range.
“When I looked for state law, the code that sets the minimum bar for regulations around shooting ranges, I was unable to find it,” Palmer said.
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If control is removed from the cities, then Palmer said the state needs to put in place minimum requirements for shooting ranges. He said there may be standards, but he wasn’t able to find them.
He also said Section 4 of the bill will impact cities at a great rate. Within city hall, he said, are many contentious issues of safety.
“We’ve heard from elected officials that they’ve been used for intimidation,” Palmer said. “An issue that’s very contentious, they felt intimidated and it hindered political discourse and discussion taking place.”
While safety is a goal for individuals within the building, Palmer said. it will disproportionately affect the cities.
“Smaller communities will be in a much more different position to afford metal detectors and professional security personnel,” he said.
Armed security personnel is not defined, but it could be very expensive to hire that person, as well as whatever screening stuff, is necessary.
Jim Obradovich of the County Zoning Officials Organization said the group is concerned that Iowa code is “pretty much silent” on regulations, especially any rules and regulations, that deal with shooting ranges.
“As a result, anything dealing with its location — next to schools, hospitals, cemeteries — anything dealing with setbacks, signage requirements, sanitation codes — all of those things, if this bill went allowed as written, wouldn’t be dealt with.”
Obradovich said the group looks forward to making things workable.
Jamie Cashman of Iowa State Association of Counties and County Supervisors said the county board of supervisors determines policy for firearms in the courthouse with consultation from county law enforcement.
Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition spoke in support of the bill.
“We think this is a very important bill,” Rogers said. “This addresses issues of preemption that Iowa Firearms Coalition has been trying to address for a number of years up here.”
Rogers said an attempt by Des Moines last year to regulate magazine capacity is an example of why this law is needed. He said an understandable, statewide standard is necessary.
He noted that political subdivisions need for security screening at venues can be exempted at certain times and places if they provide actual screening, which could be done with a handheld wand or a pat-down.
“It doesn’t have to be that expensive,” Rogers said. “Putting up a no-gun sign has no effect on bad people. It does affect the good people and their ability to defend themselves, not even so much at public meetings and a public place, but on the way to and from.”
Rogers said current law prohibits a local political subdivision from regulations on firearms that are more strict than the state’s.
“Objection to having actual screening means you want to be able to just put up a sign in the courthouse or where ever and say no guns and y’all feel better, but it will not actually have any beneficial effect and, in fact, has a bad effect,” Rogers said.
He acknowledged there may be kinks that have to be worked out in the bill in terms of zoning issues, but said the main concern the bill is trying to address is strengthening pre-emption.
Connie Ryan of the Interfaith Alliance Action Fund said the legislation ignores issues of safety.
“When we talk about guns and gun safety, any issue that comes before the legislature, we look through the lens of the safety of children and communities,” Ryan said. “And nothing in this bill tells me that that lens is what the priority is. I was opposed walking into the room on this bill, I’m even further opposed after listening to my colleagues.”
Ryan said she is gravely concerned about the legislation and “the danger that it can place our children in and our communities in.”
Chris Lee of the National Shooting Sports Foundation spoke in support of the bill in its entirety. Lee said there are 2,772 jobs in Iowa as a result of the firearms industry and those jobs contribute $425 million.
“These are law-abiding people, very patriotic people,” he said. “These are the people who already comply with more regulations from the federal level and state level than any other industry. Unfortunately, local governments in various states, including Iowa, have taken it upon themselves to zone out our industry and these law-abiding citizens.”
Scott Peterson of Iowans for Gun Safety said he didn’t hear anyone talking about the health and safety of Iowans.
“Any time we’re talking about weapons, we ought to start with that,” he said.
Peterson discounted the good guy with a gun versus a bad guy with a gun argument. He also argued the bill takes away from local control.
“I think more people have confidence in their board of supervisors or city council than they do in the state legislature,” he said.
Wendy Abrahamson of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa said she’s against the bill and noted it seems to be all or nothing.
Klein said he intends to move the bill forward and bring it to the committee as a whole.
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroschell said she is concerned about everything that’s been taken away from local communities in terms of local control. She’s also concerned about courthouse security and the safety of Iowans in general.
“At this point, I will be opposing the bill,” she said. “It looks like, to me upon reading it, much of it is looking for a problem to solve.”
Holt gave a pretty passionate defense of the bill. He acknowledged that the zoning issues got his attention, but said there is a larger philosophical disagreement.
“I know everybody in here wants to cut down on gun violence and everybody in here wants to never see another school shooting or mass shooting,” he said. “We do have some pretty strong philosophy disagreements on how to get there.”
He said the gun isn’t the issue in instances of such violence.
“It is about the character of the person holding that gun,” he said. “We just recently saw right down in Texas a situation where a gun was used for evil when an individual began to open fire in a church setting and killed people. An immediate response from an individual who knew what they were doing with a firearm, lawfully carrying American citizen, stopped that violence instantly. And God only knows how many people in that church would’ve died had that individual not been armed in that situation.”
Holt then took aim at gun-free zones.
“I happen to believe that gun-free zones are an invitation to crazy people, an invitation to sick people because nobody that has ever done a mass shooting has obeyed the law because it is illegal to kill people,” he said. “Nobody that wants to do that sort of thing is going to be stopped by a sign. That’s what I’ve never understood in this discussion.
“How does anybody believe that a sign is going to stop a sick individual who has decided to murder innocent people? What it will do is stop law-abiding citizens from carrying firearms into that situation and it makes them a shooting gallery for sick individuals. This is, as far as I’m concerned, about the health and safety of all Iowans, because I obey the law and I have a permit to carry and when there’s a sign up that says I can’t carry in that area, I don’t carry in that area. That is one less individual who is trained with a firearm and knows exactly what to do if somebody opens fire.”
Holt then referred to Peterson’s comment that there is no data to back up the good guy with a gun versus a bad guy with a gun argument.
“Open your eyes folks,” he said. “It happened right down in Texas just a few weeks ago. I fundamentally disagree and that is why I support this legislation. It is not a solution in search of a problem. We are trying to ensure that the Second Amendment rights of Iowans are protected.
“This is not Virginia and it’s not going to become Virginia. If a political subdivision wishes to restrict the rights of citizens, then most certainly it should be incumbent upon them to ensure compliance or provide security since they’ve stripped that citizen’s right.”