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City, county mull gun bans

BY KATIE HEINE | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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Johnson County officials are set to vote on a resolution that would ban guns from county property next week, and the Iowa City City Council is eyeing similar regulations.

Nearly 20 Johnson County residents attended a Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday to speak about the proposed resolution, which prohibits firearms on county-owned buildings, parks, and recreation areas. A vote is scheduled for Feb. 17.

Iowa City city councilors are set to discuss regulation barring guns from city property and city buses at a Feb. 14 work session, with a vote on the proposal set for Feb. 15.

Both are examples of government responses to a change in Iowa law that made it easier to obtain a gun permit. The new legislation, which allows county sherrifs less discretion in issuing permits, took effect Jan. 1.

The Iowa City Public Library already banned firearms and the Iowa City School District recently posted signs prohibiting them at the district office.

“Our employees are prohibited from having weapons, and I have no problem prohibiting citizens from having weapons on our grounds,” said Supervisor Janelle Rettig. “We have the right to control our own property.”

Scott Pennebaker, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he takes pride in protecting his family’s safety and would feel discriminated against if his ability to bear arms was restricted.

“It’s a civil-rights issue,” he said. “You’re taking away my right to defend myself.”

But just two weeks ago, Rettig said, she sat in a Board of Supervisors meeting in which nine people yelled at a woman speaking in support of an unpopular ordinance until the woman was shaking.

Rettig used the incident as an example of why guns should not be allowed on Johnson County property.

“Someone arguing their point passionately, well-reasoned, with good arguments can do so, but if they are carrying a weapon, that intimidating factor is bad for our employees and the public,” she said.

Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness crafted the resolution late last month and led the discussion.

“We want the employees, as well as the people, to be safe,” Lyness said.

Thursday’s turnout wasn’t surprising to supervisors.

Supervisor Pat Harney said people take the right to bear arms very seriously and noted that several other counties have repealed similar resolutions because of reaction from the public. Harney said he expects the resolution to pass.

And Supervisor Sally Stutsman said she wanted to ensure the public the resolution does not say people can never carry a gun, it just prohibits them from doing so on county grounds.

“I am supportive of the ordinance,” Stutsman said. “I am very uncomfortable with guns and seeing guns, and I don’t want to see them when I come to work and that’s all there is too it.”

But Supervisor Rod Sullivan wasn’t as quick to shoot down the resolution.

“This is not easy,” he said. “I consider myself a firm believer in the Constitution.”

City Councilor Regenia Bailey said she’s talked with one supervisor about the issue.

She said she expects a great deal of public input on the issue.

“I grew up with guns in the house — by no means am I anti-gun — but there is a certain time and place for them,” she said.


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