An Iowa House subcommittee passed a proposed constitutional amendment to provide security for the right to keep and bear arms on Tuesday morning. Iowa is one of just six states without an amendment in its state constitution.
Richard Rogers of Iowa Firearms Coalition noted that 400,000 Iowans now hold a permit to carry weapons compared to just 30,000 years ago.
Rogers noted that the amendment has already passed through two previous general assemblies. He said the right to keep and bear arms is universally recognized to support the right to self-defense.
Some, he said, wonder why the amendment is needed. Rogers said it is because the courts are unpredictable when it comes to defending the Second Amendment.
Iowans deserve the right to vote on whether to include the amendment in their constitution.
Charlotte Eby, who spoke on behalf of Giffords, said the group has major concerns with the amendment, which she said would make it much easier to bring legal challenges to Iowa’s gun safety laws. Background checks, concealed carry and permits to purchase are some of the gun safety laws she said would be threatened.
Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference said the group is registered against the bill, which he agreed would restrict the state’s ability to regulate weapons.
“We think this strict scrutiny language might put current legislation in jeopardy, such as background checks and permit requirements,” he said. “The right to bear arms is found in our constitution, it will always be there. We know people have the right to defend themselves, sometimes using deadly force if necessary. But this legislation goes beyond that.”
Democrat State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell said it is the wrong time to have the subcommittee.
“We are living in a divided world,” she said. “We saw our U.S. Capitol attacked by insurrectionists just less than two weeks ago, and tomorrow we will be celebrating the inauguration of our next President. Washington D.C. has been essentially shut down due to the threat of violence.
“Iowans no doubt want their guns and they want to be able to protect themselves, but Iowans also deserve and want to be in a safe state from gun violence in their homes, in their communities and in their neighborhoods.”
Wessel-Kroeschell talked about an individual who shot at four teenagers during a Trump rally because teenagers were saying things they didn’t like.
“Turning to gun violence is just wrong,” she said. “And this amendment is going to help people turn to gun violence over and over again.”
Wessel-Kroeschell said that gun violence is a “uniquely American epidemic.”
She added just three states have enacted strict scrutiny laws and that Iowa should not be the fourth.
“It is a dangerous attempt to undermine Iowa’s reasonable popular public safety laws and it would be a truly extreme, far-reaching change to our constitution,” she said. “The truth is that the language in this amendment poses a direct threat to Iowa’s public safety laws that protect our communities by keeping guns out of the hands of people who we all agree shouldn’t have them.”
Wessel-Kroeschell said the fact military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines are routinely available is alarming and news to many Iowans. She said it is important Iowans can live their lives “without the constant threat of gun violence hanging over our heads.”
Republican Rep. Steve Holt, who chaired the subcommittee, reminded that the Second Amendment is not a second-class right. He said it is a fundamental right and fundamental rights deserve strict scrutiny.
“Why would anyone want Iowans’ rights, one right or another, less rigorously protected than say the right to freedom of speech, or the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to freedom of religion? Our constitution sets out certain God-given natural rights. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unalienable rights – unalienable – a right which cannot be sold, transferred or in any way taken away.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, unalienable rights for all Americans. The right to someone’s own life, and the pursuit of their own happiness, their own destiny, cannot be separated from the right to defend that life. Hence the fundamental right to keep and bear arms in our Second Amendment.”
Holt said that freedom and liberty are fragile in 2021. Landmark Second Amendment cases were decided by just one vote. Justices on the Supreme Court, he said, have created a road map to the future destruction of Second Amendment rights.”
Strict scrutiny is the highest level of review, Holt said. And that language is necessary to protect fundamental, individual rights.
The bill passed and will now advance to the full Judiciary Committee.