Fundamental party differences on display in Second Amendment pre-emption committee debate

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House File 2502 will not provide much, if any, change to the Iowa Code. It will simply reinforce a law that has been in existence for 30 years.

Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) said that in 1990, the first firearms pre-emption bill passed. Since then, the legislature has had to come back and modernize the law in response to political subdivisions working to ban firearms in their jurisdiction illegally.

Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) was the most vocal critic of the bill. Bisignano acknowledged he agreed to the 1990 bill.

“I believed in it,” Bigisnano said. “This takes a different spin.”

Bisignano asked Schultz what the cost of the bill is.

“No, the cost is zero for allowing law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Schultz said.

“No, Senator, the cost is not zero,” Bisignano said. “So, let’s don’t get on the rhetoric of a pro-gun bumper sticker.”

Schultz said it isn’t rhetoric, but Bisignano said it is because it says it costs nothing if you agree with the bill, but it costs millions if you don’t agree.

“It says you can have a gun-free facility, but you must have checkpoints, you must have wands, you must have security — you must, you must, you must,” Bisignano said. “Must is not an option. And to say this is just an innocuous free bill is wrong.”

Bisignano said it’s an example of the legislature struggling to understand where each other comes from. He said while many Republicans represent small cities, he represents Des Moines, which has 25 buildings.

“But then you take in the library buildings, you take in all the county buildings, you take in the senior citizen meal sites, you take in all the services buildings that we have — because we say we don’t want weapons in a supplemental foods facility, that costs us money,” Bisignano said. “For you to say it doesn’t cost anything, it only costs nothing if I agree with you. Do you agree with that?”

Schultz said no.

“When you put a sign up on the wall that says no guns, you are not stopping somebody from walking in there with a firearm — somebody who has bad intent,” Schultz said. “All you’re doing is stopping the law-abiding citizen from going in and exercising their 2A right and the ability to defend themselves or their family in that building.”

Schultz said the bill says if the political subdivision is going to suspend someone’s constitutional, God-given right, then it is their responsibility to protect them.

“All this says is that if you’re actually going to have a gun-free zone because a sign is not a gun-free zone, it’s only a bad-guys-have-guns zone, if you’re going to do that you have to actually take the steps necessary to protect the citizen who was given the right to protect themselves, but you’ve denied it,” he said. “If you allow them to do it, it’s a cost of zero.”

Bisignano said the argument on the issue goes in a circle. Ultimately, he said, he wants people to believe that people are basically good.

“I think we are making our communities frightful for our kids,” he said. “I don’t see the incidents that is a groundswell of public tragedies and public buildings. I oppose the bill because I think what you’re saying, that it’s easy, just let everybody carry a gun, makes it cheap and innocuous and I think that’s wrong. Because, if you’re going to give me a choice, then the choices ought to be fair and reasonable. And this is not fair nor reasonable.”

Bisignano said it’s another example of Republicans in the Senate not trusting local governments.

“We’re not making our community any safer, either way,” he said. “Those who carry in and those who don’t, there isn’t one incident between them. It happens. This is punitive and I wish this legislature would finally have some respect for local government and quit giving us the sidetalk that you’re doing all these wonderful things for local government and property taxes to help them when you take every authority they have away.

He then made a full turn in the debate to pitting rural communities against Des Moines.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to just pluck out a city in your district and just destroy it,” Bisignano said. “I don’t have that power option. But I watch this party, this Republican Party, pick at Des Moines like it’s the last piece of bread on earth for the birds and I don’t know why, I don’t know why you hate the city of Des Moines when it supplies so much to the state.”

Bisignano said Republicans find ways to hurt Des Moines every chance they get and take pleasure in doing so.

“I believe that,” he said. “Go home and run against Des Moines and Polk County. It’s about time you respect local officials, our officials. I resent that you don’t respect my city council and my school board. I don’t know how you call them friends but you do. I never had friends who don’t trust me. But you’ve got a lot of them.”

Bisignano said Iowa Republicans are turning over every rock they can find to do a gun bill.

“I don’t get this, why Iowa’s turning into this gun-slinging mentality state,” he said. “Everybody I know who wants to carry a gun carries one. A lot of people have guns I don’t like, and shouldn’t have a gun. But that’s what we have police for. That’s what we have law enforcement for, not the Iowa legislature. I find this bill absolutely ridiculous because it doesn’t give cities or communities the option.”

Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) asked Bisignano what his suggestion is to ensure security for law-abiding citizens who are not allowed to carry a weapon into a building owned by a political subdivision that prohibits firearms.

“I don’t think it’s the supplemental foods or the senior meal site has a direct responsibility to give you security,” Bisignano said. “They set their facility up with supervisors, just like anywhere you go. I don’t go anywhere on Saturday to do my errands with the intent that the women in Victoria’s Secrets is carrying a gun. I don’t go to a mall to shop and I expect people to be armed in there waiting to kill somebody. I think we have a good society and your mentality is trying to take me to a darker place than I want to think that we live in.

“I don’t think it’s society’s responsibility to guarantee that you never will come across violence. When I go to the bank, I don’t look at everybody walking in as the bank robber. You want from me an answer to say I will protect you everywhere and every situation and I don’t think even with all the good guys with guns we’re going to stop bad situations.”

Garrett said that Bisignano made his point.

“You’re saying, ‘Well, that’s just tough. We’ve got police and they’ll be there in, I don’t know, 15-20 minutes maybe,'” Garrett said. “So, how many people get killed in 15 or 20 minutes? The point is, you’re telling me, I can’t protect myself. You’re going to allow people to prohibit me from protecting myself and if something happens, tough luck. That’s just the way it is. Folks, that’s not acceptable to most law-abiding citizens.

“Such a simple solution. Let law-abiding people protect themselves because you’ve just explained there isn’t any other good solution. There’s no other way to do it.”

Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) expressed concerns over the bill as it relates to zoning issues for shooting ranges. Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mount Pleasant) said he has issues with situations where a county courthouse is in a building with other county offices.

The judicial branch can restrict people from carrying in the courthouse part of a building, which Taylor said would make it impossible to believe his county would be able to enforce such a bill.

Taylor compared the gun-free policies in buildings owned by political subdivisions to private businesses that prohibit weapons.

“I have a concealed carry permit, I don’t carry that often, I’m not that scared of people myself, but if I was and I couldn’t carry in this particular hardware store that I want to go in and buy something, I just wouldn’t go in that store,” he said. “I don’t want to see this coming now to the point where, if you own a retail establishment now you’ve got to allow them to. Because I see the next step to this.”

His biggest concern, though, is the amount of money it will cost his county to enforce if they want to maintain gun-free zones.

Sen. Jake Chapman (R-Adel) said he believes the bill is a great bill.

“I just want to point out one thing that I think is being overlooked,” Chapman said. “We’ve heard about costs — what this is going to cost our cities and counties and we’ve got 24 buildings that this could impact in Des Moines — who owns those buildings? I mean, it makes it sound like it’s the mayor that owns it or the city council who own it or the county supervisors.

“It’s the people. The people pay for it. We own those buildings. We own this building. We have governments instituted at the local level who are restricting a fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear arms in their buildings. No different than your home.”

Chapman said he’d just like to see a ban altogether on a political subdivision’s ability to institute a gun-free zone.

“But hey, we’re going to allow some local control,” he said. “If you want to do it, you’re going to have to provide the security. If you’re going to restrict my ability to self-preservation, to protect myself from some other lunatic that’s in the building, then you’d better be prepared to protect me. I think that’s absolutely reasonable.”

Bisignano spoke once again. He took exception with Chapman’s comments.

“I agree that you have the right think the way you think, but I don’t agree with anything you think about,” Bisignano said.

He then launched into a long diatribe about the lack of a law requiring proficiency to own a gun.

Schultz said there isn’t one as it would be an unconstitutional mandate.

“There we go, unconstitutional mandate,” Bisignano said. “To know how to operate a killing machine, it’s my constitutional right to be stupid enough to buy a gun, carry it everywhere I want to go once I get my permit to carry, correct?”

Schultz said a gun is an inanimate tool.

“That’s our fundamental difference,” Schultz said. “You have no faith, no trust, no consideration for the citizen to take it upon himself to know what he’s going to do. You cannot force a mandate on a constitutional right, otherwise, it’s not a right. Then it’s a test of permission being required.”

Bisignano pointed out that the First Amendment right to freedom of speech has restrictions, so why not the Second Amendment.

“You need a federal constitutional amendment to change the Second Amendment,” Schultz said. “Because right now we live under a document that regulates the framework of America that says that the citizen has the right to keep and bear arms. Both of them — keep and bear.”

Bisignano asked why the Senate has the bill if there’s a federal constitutional amendment protecting the Second Amendment rights.

“We’re here because subdivisions keep breaking the law and we have to keep changing the law to try to stop them,” Schultz said. “They are infringing on the rights. We are here to stop the political machine of Des Moines and our other metros — the Democratic machine that keeps trying to control those citizens. We represent those citizens of Des Moines who want to be free Americans.

“We’re here to do the fundamental purpose of government, which is to protect and preserve rights of the citizen.”

“In your opinion,” Bisignano said.

“That’s not,” Schultz said. “That’s pretty fundamental. That’s not my opinion. That’s the purpose of government.”

Bisignano returned back to the concern over cost.

“Bottom line is, you are deciding what my community does or doesn’t do with an economic penalty if they don’t,” he said. “Don’t say there’s no cost. Don’t say it’s free choice. None of that is.”

He then went into a tirade about people having guns without proficiency.

“I can tell you, if you’re afraid of anything, it’s not just a crazy person out there, it’s somebody with a gun with no proficiency,” Bisignano said. “We used to have that. We used to have proficiency training. But that became too cumbersome to know how to fire a weapon.”

Bisignano acknowledged a gun won’t get out of a drawer and shoot someone on its own, but…

“But in the hands of someone who knows nothing about it, that ought to be our first priority,” he said. “The more weapons we’re putting out there in society, why aren’t we making them be more proficient?”

Bisignano then talked about a hypothetical situation at a gas station where someone comes in to commit a robbery.

“I know what the idiot’s doing, he’s coming in for the money, pretty easy,” Bisignano said. “Now, I don’t know you. You could be my reverend, and he could be my lawyer and you could be Mother Teresa. Doesn’t matter. You all three got guns. This guy comes in and he knows what he’s doing. He’s going for the money. Might not be a great shot, but I’m going to be standing two feet in front of him.

“But then I’ve got a guy in the back, I’ve got Mother Teresa over on the other side and I’ve got my reverend standing over in a corner. All at once a fire breaks out, who are you more afraid of at that point? I’m afraid of all of them. I’m afraid of all of them. Because there’s three more weapons in that place that wouldn’t be there if the government building could prohibit.”

Bisignano said accidents happen and people end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“But people who can’t shoot a weapon should not be able to have one,” he said. “And you can say that’s the Constitution, you’ve got the right to just buy one. Buy it and carry it. But you don’t know a damn thing about using it. That’s the biggest joke of all this.”

And, Bisignano said, he hopes for the sake of the robber there isn’t a robber because he’s the only one who knows what he’s doing in the store.

“Every good guy with a gun doesn’t have guts,” Bisignano said. “Guts don’t come with a gun, guts come with guts. You either got it or you don’t. You could have a gun, and as soon as you see a gun, you kind of freak out and freeze. Well, that takes you off the table as my self-defense. So I don’t know why we feel so good to know that there are so many guns when most of the people with them can’t shoot them.”

He said proficiency has been taken out of the law and thrown into the garbage.

“Constitutionally he’s protected to be stupid,” Bisignano said. “We’re going to protect his right to be stupid with a firearm. And I don’t get it.”

Sen. Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant) said he’s concerned about the government stripping away a right and then failing to defend someone with it.

“When I walk into my county courthouse in Jasper, and they have a sticker saying this is a no-gun zone, but you walk in here and someone pulls out a weapon and someone starts shooting at you, you have no right to defend yourself. I’ve now empowered government to take away my right but provide me no protection under the law.”

Nunn continued.

“We’ve had this conversation. We’ve put it before the state and we have it in the constitutional amendment coming forward, and we still have local governments that find ways to sneak around it, slap a sticker on the wall, make up a political statement if that’s where that conversation goes, but then provide no safety under the law.”

Nunn said he wants kids to be in a safe environment. When he carries his weapon, he says he is doing it to provide a level of safety.

“When we ask to be able to provide a level of baseline security going into a courtroom, going into a school, going into an area where there is going to be a no-gun zone, then we are asking that entity to protect us in the same way that I or you would protect our child or grandchild.”

Nunn said he hopes the bill provides some consistency to prioritize those areas where local governments are being asked to provide additional responsibility. And, he said, perhaps provide some resources for it.

He said he also represents Polk County, but he has concerns with the 24 buildings Des Moines has that are gun-free zones.

“When we’re designating 24-plus facilities as ‘gun-free zones’ for good people, and then providing no layer of protection or security for them, we’re putting them in jeopardy,” Nunn said. “That is not local government helping us. That is local government giving us the bumper sticker of feeling safe with zero ability to respond.”

Schultz credited Bisignano for taking somewhere around a half-hour to attempt to change the narrative of what the legislation actually does.

In his closing comments, he said he does believe there is a Democratic machine in Des Moines and Polk County.

“I do believe there is such a strong, powerful political entity in this county and this city and it’s the Democratic Party that you do have people working within that framework who are not working for the benefit of the people of Polk County and the city. They’re working for the benefit of furthering Democratic political games. So we have to come in here as a state and say that we’re going to protect the citizens from that machine.”

He compared it to the way Chicago dominates Illinois.

“The entire state is seen as an anti-gun, high-tax, high-regulation, pro-liberal, and that’s not the case at all,” Schultz said. “So, yeah, I do believe we’re doing the correct thing here in regards to that.”