Senate Joint Resolution 10 passed through the Judiciary committee on Wednesday. The resolution proposes an amendment to the Iowa Constitution providing the right of the people to keep and bear arms. That right shall not be infringed and is fundamental, according to the resolution. Any and all restrictions would be subject to strict scrutiny.
“Forty-four states have approved this,” said Republican Sen. Brad Zaun. “We’re one of the few states that does not have it in our state constitution.”
An amendment was offered right away to match with the House resolution. It included a change in case the Secretary of State didn’t do his job in regards to publishing notification in advance.
Democrats wondered how the public would be notified about the constitutional amendment prior to the vote.
“I understand it was a pretty significant mistake on the part of the Secretary of State’s office,” said Democrat Sen. Janet Petersen. “But to get rid of his duties of notifying the public because he wasn’t able to follow what was there in front of his office, I can’t support not having notification go out to Iowans over something this significant.”
Zaun said he understood that concern, but said the print notification requirement was a generational thing.
Democrat Sen. Rich Taylor pondered who “we” is when it comes to deciding whose responsibility it is to ensure the notification is made public.
Republican Sen. Jason Schultz said it would be the responsibility of the General Assembly.
“Beside the fact that this is going to be one of the most newsworthy issues to come through here, the way I read it is it says General Assembly,” he said. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.”
Fellow Republican sen. Jake Chapman said the language of the resolution refers to what is prescribed by law.
“Currently it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State,” Chapman said. “That being said, I do support and hope that we can make a change to that because frankly the Secretary of State has a pocket veto over any constitutional amendment we put forward. In the future I’m hopeful that this body will consider making changes so we don’t run into the problem we ran into last year.”
Zaun stressed he is not attempting to hide anything from Iowans, legislators are just attempting to avoid another mishap with publication.
The amendment passed 10-4 with Democrat Senators Tony Bisignano, Rob Hogg, Taylor and Petersen voting against it.
Once things returned to the bill, Bisignano said he was upset that Zaun took a bill that had unanimous bipartisan support and made it partisan.
“It’s unfortunate,” Bisignano said.
While 44 states have similar legislation, Bisignano said only three have strict srcuitny language.
“It’s not a trend,” he said. “Obviously it’s not the one moving across 41 states and three don’t have it. Three do have it and the rest don’t. I’d like to say we’ve lived with the United States federal Constitution for I don’t know how many hundreds of years and it’s fine. No one has lot their weapon. We have debate on different policies when it comes to guns, but you’re right to bear arms I don’t think is questioned by anybody.”
Republican Sen. Julian Garrett responded.
“To say we’re not in any danger, no problem, I think is clearly wrong,” Garrett said. “It was just a few years ago where the United States Supreme Court considered a case involving whether or not the Second Amendment applied to an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.”
Garrett said the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment did give individual citizens the right to keep and bear arms.
“Four judges in the United States Supreme Court were ready to take that right away from us as citizens,” Garrett said. “So it makes a lot of sense to put this amendment into the Iowa Constitution in case something would happen in the future to the United States Constitution. Our Second Amendment rights are not as secure as you’re implying here.”
Zaun said Iowa voters will have the ultimate say in whether or not the amendment is added to the state’s constitution.
“Last year, I believe it was last year, (the bill) ran on the Senate floor and it was voted for in a bipartisan way,” Zaun said. “Ultimately this will be decided by the voters of Iowa on how important their Second Amendment rights are.”
Bisignano, Hogg and Petersen voted against the bill.