Iowa House Republicans are putting forth another proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that includes the right to keep and bear arms after an oversight by Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office derailed the previous attempt.
“We’ve seen this for many years,” said Republican State Rep. Matt Windschitl.
Windschitl said the language is identical to last year’s version that passed. He started the meeting by defending the inclusion of strict scrutiny in the bill.
Both Louisiana and Missouri have included strict scrutiny in their amendments.
“Nothing has happened that allows felons or domestic abusers to have firearms,” Windschitl said. “I find the argument that some how adding strict scrutiny into our state constitution will invalidate our firearms laws to be inaccurate. It’s a far stretch. What we’re trying to do here is allow Iowans the opportunity to protect individual and fundamental rights.”
Democrat State Rep. Tim Kacena said he is concerned about strict scrutiny.
“I think it’s premature to say strict scrutiny will not affect the laws we have on the books now because there just aren’t enough case studies out there to prove that,” Kacena said. “I believe strict scrutiny will handcuff the courts in many ways and put a thumb on the scale of justice.”
While Kacena called himself a supporter of the Second Amendment and card-carrying concealed carrier, he would rather support an amendment that doesn’t have strict scrutiny in it.
Richard Rogers of Iowa Firearms Coalition spoke in favor of the bill.
“Nearly every living organism displays an instinct for self preservation,” Rogers said. “Certainly all human beings have the desire and right to defend themselves.”
Owning a defensive firearm is key to being able to protect one’s self. Iowa is one of just six states without the right to keep and bear arms in its constitution. California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Minnesota are the others.
“Fundamental rights of the people are not subject to revocation by majority rule,” Rogers said. “This amendment will not and cannot grant any right that the people didn’t already possess. It can offer needed protections. Iowans deserve the protection of this fundamental right. The people of Iowa will ultimately determine whether to adopt this amendment, you owe them that opportunity.”
Nathaniel Gavronsky spoke in favor as well because it would ease transporting firearms, he said.
Charlotte Eby of Giffords declared against the bill.
“We think this will make it much easier for legal challenges to Iowa’s gun laws,” she said.
Giffords did a statewide poll of likely Iowa voters that Eby said shows support for gun safety laws.
Tim Coonan of Everytown for Gun Safety is opposed. Strict scrutiny has Coonan concerned as well. He said there’s no way to predict how a court would rule.
“That causes us real concern,” Coonan said.
Connie Ryan of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa echoed the issues with strict scrutiny. She said her group would register neutral if strict scrutiny was removed.
Democrat State Rep. Mary Wolfe, who did not serve on the subcommittee but expressed legal concerns with basing predictions on what other courts in other states have done.
“Each state has a different set of criminal laws and often a different form for their felon in possession laws,” Wolfe said.
She said she’s confident the Iowa court would uphold a prohibition on convicted violent felons from owning weapons. But she’s not sure just because one thing happened in one state it will happen in Iowa.
“I want to be able to tell my constituents here’s what’s going to happen if this happens,” she said. “I’m not comfortable saying don’t worry, it’s not going to do away with any of our current gun safety laws because I just do not believe and I do not see how that can be the case.”
Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference also spoke against the bill.
“We believe this would definitely restrict the state’s ability to regulate weapons in the future and we do have our concerns about the strict scrutiny language that might put current regulation in jeopardy,” Chapman said. “Certainly we agree people have the right to defend their life, even to the point of using deadly force, but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here.”
Jamie Burch of Planned Parenthood shared similar concerns over strict scrutiny.
“As a health care provider that has been a victim of gun violence, we believe everyone has a fundamental right to live a safe and healthy life without fear of violence,” she said. “We also identify gun violence as a public health threat.”
Kacena remained a no.
“Strict scrutiny is really untested and in its infancy,” he said. “I personally do not want to be an incubator or guinea pig for the courts as we have been the last two years on so many other issues.”
Republican State. Rep. Jarad Klein said he was looking forward to signing off in support.
Windschitl noted he was proposing a change in the publication provision of the proposal as well.
“This is not about gun rights. This is not about gun violence,” he said. “This is about the peoples’ rights — inalienable rights. Rights that cannot be taken away. Rights that cannot be granted — they are born with them. This is about enshrining our state constitution with the protection of those rights that Iowans deserve.”