Once debate turned to the resolution for a right to keep and bear arms amendment to be included in the Iowa Constitution, Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) quizzed Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) on what the unintended consequences of an amendment might be.
He started by asking if the amendment would block future attempts by the Iowa Legislature to ban bump stocks.
“This resolution will allow voters in the state of Iowa to decide how important their Second Amendment rights are,” Zaun said. “This resolution will not be mandating or telling the legislature what they can or cannot do in regards to bump stocks.”
The conversation went back and forth, mostly repeating what was already said. Zaun said the resolution would prohibit any activism in regards to the courts or anything out of D.C. and ensure protections for Second Amendment rights.
Quirmbach said the amendment would limit the legislature on future legislation regarding gun control.
“That’s what the constitution does, the constitution enables this legislature to pass legislation,” Quirmbach said.
It tells legislators what they can do and what they cannot do, he said.
Zaun said gun show loopholes are not happening in Iowa. He’s attended gun shows and hasn’t seen anyone purchase a firearm without proper ID and permit to purchase.
Quirmbach asked if convicted felons would be allowed to own guns.
“That is absolutely a ridiculous question,” Zaun said. “No. Clearly, no.”
Quirmbach then asked about domestic abusers.
“I don’t know how familiar you are with the code of Iowa or federal laws,” Zaun said. “There’s laws already in place that would not let a domestic abuser have firearms once they’ve been convicted.”
Quirmbach then suggested the amendment could allow for bazooka ownership.
“Under this amendment it is arguable that a person would have a legal right to own a bazooka, a rocket propelled grenade, a flame thrower — all of those arms,” he said. “This isn’t limited to firearms, this says arms of all manner.”
Sen. Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines) stood up in defense of background checks. She said she was one of the 90 percent who desire universal background checks.
“None of you campaigned on it,” she said. “People in Iowa want to strengthen background checks. If (this amendment) goes through it would really take a lot of power away from Iowans who want to change our gun laws.”
Senator Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City) gave a strong speech, you can read about it here.
Senator Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs) expressed doubt that anyone in the Senate was attempting to legalize bazookas.
“That’s an argument too far,” he said. “We’re trying to say any piece of legislation passed needs to have a high burden.”
Senator Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo) said he’s a firm defender of the Second Amendment and believes it has lasted well.
“Sen. Quirmbach gave an example, yes it was over the top,” he said.
But, he said, words matter.
“And the words that you put into law can be interpreted different than what legislators think,” he said.
He pointed to an example of legislation that legislators thought meant one thing in the late 1990s, but ended up meaning another.
“That’s what attorneys do,” he said. “They look at the words. I don’t think it makes a lot of difference here, what you’re saying, unless you define it. Sen. Zaun, you didn’t define it.”
Dotzler said voters won’t be able to understand what strict scrutiny means.
“It’s too complicated to explain in a 30-second ad,” he said. “And that’s what’s going to happen.”
There are far too many unknowns, Dotzler said.
“I think you’re just throwing a jump ball up in the air to get fellow gun owners worked up about something that makes them believe this Democrat sitting in this seat doesn’t care about their inalienable rights to have a weapon,” Dotzler said. “I do. I own more than most. I enjoy going to the range and utilizing it. I believe in my right of freedom and I believe in protecting myself.
“But I also believe that there are people who shouldn’t have weapons and they shouldn’t have a right to them. And that’s what this debate is about.”
Senator Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) explained why strict scrutiny is necessary.
“Because apparently ‘shall not be infringed’ does not count any more,” he said. “Strict scrutiny can’t possibly, in any realm, mean ‘shall not be infringed.’ Shall not be infringed means keep your damn hands off. We’re not good at that.”
Schultz pointed to red flag laws across the country. Those are actual concerns, unlike the bazooka ownership issue.
“Full disclosure, I’d love to have a bazooka,” Schultz said. “Federal laws says I can’t have a bazooka. Nothing we do here is going to let Jason Schultz…buy my bazooka. Hyperbole, thy name is the Iowa Senate because we’ve gone to just ridiculous lengths to prove a point I don’t think is valid.”
Schultz said he’d guess a fifth-grader would be able to correctly define ‘shall not be infringed.’ Yet it is often messed up.
“Strict scrutiny means the state must have compelling interest if they’re going to erode your right,” he said.
Courts, he said, are unpredictable. In other states someone can say they’re scared of a gun owner and the guns will be taken away. The individual doesn’t know who complained or provide a defense for weeks or months after the gun is taken. Strict scrutiny provides strong legal protection should such things be attempted in Iowa.
“If you’re going to take somebody’s rights away, it had better meet those standards,” he said.