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House File 2502 advanced through a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday despite a heavy presence of members of Moms Demand Action and other opponents of the Second Amendment.

This bill restricts local control of some firearm regulations. One of the biggest aspects of the bill is it allows a political subdivision to restrict weapons in buildings under their control if they provide screening and armed security.

Richards Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition spoke in support of the bill, which passed through the Iowa House last week.

Rogers said the right of self-defense, to life itself, is the most basic and instinctually exercised right of all.

“The right to keep and bear arms is merely the most logical extension of that natural and fundamental right and has been so recognized by the Constitution and the courts of this nation,” Rogers said. “Iowa Firearms Coalition is at its core a human rights organization. It may come as a shock to some, but our work is not really about guns. It is about restoring and protecting essential liberty.”

Rogers encouraged members of the legislature to consider why they are in the legislature.

“Is it to advance and protect the liberty and autonomy of all,” he asked. “Or are they essentially no more than kindergarten teachers, whose job it is to manage and train their charges, teaching them to stand tamely in line, use their indoor voices and never run with sharp objects?”

Rogers noted that cases are being reported where individuals have attempted to establish a trap or other shooting range in rural settings, but believe that county officials are placing unreasonable obstacles in their path in a discriminatory manner.

The bill recognizes the area of authority of the Judicial Branch and the limits of preemption under Iowa Code 724.28. Courts may enforce weapons bans in those public spaces they inhabit, but an order for a county Board of Supervisors or Sheriff to enact or enforce a ban on weapons in non-court spaces is in violation of the intent of the preemption statute and shall be unenforceable.”

Rogers said this is a 30-year old issue. The law, he said, is being ignored by local governments. Iowa Code 724.28 has been in effect since April 5, 1990.

“Local regulations of firearms, such as ‘bans’ in libraries, city halls, etc. have been void since that date,” Rogers said. “Most opponents to this bill seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge that plain fact.”

Iowa law does not prohibit permit holders from going armed in places like libraries, city halls, courthouses, voting sites or the Capitol.

Some local governments, though, are attempting to regulate the otherwise lawful carrying of firearms, which directly conflict with 724.28.

A couple of years ago, Urbandale attempted banning firearms in all city-owned buildings that were within 1,000 feet of a school. The West Des Moines Library adopted a code of conduct with nearly 30 rules, one was banning firearms from the property. Violations of the ordinance are punishable by 30 days in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Last summer, Des Moines considered banning ammunition magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds.

Rogers said the bill does not impose new mandates or costs on local governments. However, if those local governments decide to institute an illegal ban, consisting of only signs on the walls, they have not added any actual measure of security.

“Simply posting no guns signs is actually counterproductive and is insufficient to meet this test,” Rogers said.

Jim Obradovich of the County Zoning Officials Organization said the group would like to see more detailed information in the Iowa Code when it comes to zoning for shooting ranges. He said the only examples that the group was given of city and county officials going out and putting undue zoning rules on people came from out of Iowa.

Daniel Stalder of the Iowa League of Cities said the group is opposed. They have concerns about the lack of clarity in state code when it comes to zoning. He also said there are strong concerns with Section 4 of the bill, which deals with local governments being forced to provide adequate measures — screening and armed security — if they choose to prohibit weapons.

Iowa Moms Demand Action testified in opposition to the legislation.

“We remain concerned the language in this bill only stands to make Iowans, our families and our children less safe instead of focusing on common-sense measures that we have backed and recommended that have an evidence-based approach to make communities safer,” she said. “This would make them less safe.”

Nico Bocour of Giffords spoke against the bill as well.

“Overall we are opposed to this piece of legislation because we think it really prevents localities from being able to take the action they need to protect their own citizens,” Bocour said. “We need to recognize that this isn’t a one-size-fits all scenario.”

Sydney Gangestad of Everytown for Gun Safety said the group is opposed and concerned about Section4 as well. She said it greatly broadens the state’s existing firearms preemption laws.

“This effectively curbs localities both cities and counties from creating any ordinances related to gun safety,” Gangestad said. “It also subjects local officials to potential damages and attorneys fees for adopting said ordinances. We have strong concerns about that.”

Gangestad said the group believes it is best to leave these policies up to local entities such as cities and counties.

Joe Gorton of Brady United Against Gun Violence is also a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He talked at length against the bill.

“I’m here to ask you to not support this legislation for a number of reasons,” he said.

Gorton said his understanding is that this concern about gun ranges applies to just one gun range.

“So I don’t quite understand why we would be pursuing a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “Just as a person somewhat familiar with firearms, I am a little concerned about placing restrictions beyond what local zoning boards would require to provide real safety for gun ranges.”

Gorton talked about exemptions and after listening to the House debate, he said the concern about a patchwork of laws is similar to how traffic laws change.

“You have to be attuned to that, just as you would here,” he said. “The only reason why we would see a patchwork of laws is because most Iowans really oppose many of the gun laws that are coming out of the legislature.”

Gorton said Iowans should have the right to limit magazines and weapons.

“This is not something that’s intended to encroach on anyone’s Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Gorton then said Heller v. DC is basically the law of the land on the Second Amendment. He quoted Justice Antonin Scalia.

“It would not prohibit states from having laws about carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and, hear this, government buildings,” Gorton said. “So, even the Supreme Court that passed Heller recognized that states and local governments should be able to protect their citizens in these local settings.”

Gorton said this will not provide any deterrent effect. Most homicides happen out of nowhere, he said.

“Once that person is in that state of mind that they’re going to take a life, nothing is going to deter them,” he said. “Especially if you can take a gun into a building, it makes it that much easier. So I really fear that this is the type of bill that is going to endanger lives.”

Gorton referenced a study that showed from 2006-12 there were more than 1,400 unintended firearm discharges by police officers.

“What happens is if you improve this bill you’re going to increase the probability that people who are ill-trained, ill-equipped are going to be walking into environments that are basically pressure cooker environments and could become suddenly outraged or could just be so impulsive in their actions they unintentionally fire their weapon.

“So, I think what you need to decide is whether or not you think preempting local governments from protecting their own public safety is less important than the very public safety that we all want to protect.”

Nicole Proesch of the Iowa Hospital Association said the organization wanted to receive clarity on whether the bill includes hospital buildings as well. A board of supervisors has some control over a hospital, but there’s also a board of trustees for hospitals, so they wondered whose authority it would be.

“We’re looking out for our patients, our staff, those that are in the hospital as well as some concerns we do have facilities that have psychiatric wards and we also have facilities with maternity wards,” she said. “That’s just our main concern.”

Susan Daemen of the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association said they are against the bill due to local control. She said the bill won’t impact many of the counties that already have courthouse security. Some counties do allow weapons, she said, but even in those counties the courts make the decision for the courtroom and their only request related tot hat is if a county allows weapons but the courts require they be banned, the county shouldn’t be responsible for that cost.

“This bill will negatively impact, or have a fiscal impact, on smaller courthouses that currently don’t have the level of courthouse security that the larger courthouses do,” she said. ”

Jamie Cashman of the Iowa State Association of Counties and the Iowa State Association of County Supervisors said those groups are opposed as well. He said it provides an infringement on local control.

Josh Mandelbaum serves on the Des Moines City Council and he said they are opposed to the bill. Des Moines has 25 buildings, he said. The cost would be at potentially $2.5 million every year to provide the level of security the bill would impose if Des Moines wanted to maintain gun-free public buildings.

Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) said he wouldn’t sign the subcommittee report and said he thinks it is an over-reaching bill.

Sen. Zach Whiting (R-Spirit Lake) said he is for local control, but there’s a balancing act between the principle of local control and regulating a fundamental constitutional right. Whiting supported the bill.

Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) said he would look into the hospital issue. He addressed Mandelbaum’s concerns.

“When you’re talking about the expense of doing what they want to do — well, freedom isn’t free, but it’s a heck of a lot less expensive than implementing tyranny. Just go ahead and let law-abiding citizens practices their Second Amendment rights and there is no mandate here,” Schultz said.

Author: Jacob Hall