Iowa Republicans push for right to bear arms


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State Republicans want to bring Iowa's Constitution in line with those of 44 other states.

Iowa is one of only six states in the Union that do not have a Second Amendment-like right to keep and bear arms enshrined in their Constitutions.

Gun-rights advocates — such as Stephanie Samford of the National Riffle Association's Institute for Legislative Action — say the resolution, House Joint Resolution 2005, is necessary to protect Iowans' right to have firearms.

"We have to move beyond the idea of only having a handgun in the home for self-defence," Samford said.

Advocates for the resolution have cited two landmark Supreme Court cases — District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago — as reasons why Iowa needs its own constitutional protection for gun ownership. The two cases, regarding a state's and municipality's right to restrict access to handguns, were decided by a one-vote margin in favor of gun rights.

"We have to prevent the worst of these judicial abuses which threaten Iowans' rights to arms," Samford said.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said the potential for activist judges to change Iowa's gun law should concern all Iowans.

"There are numerous opportunities out there for future judges to overturn those Supreme Court rulings or make other rulings that would not be consistent with what Iowans believe," he said.

Windschitl, a gunsmith by trade, said gun-rights advocates need to stay on the offensive or they will see their rights continually chipped away.

"This is a foundation and a protection for our Second Amendment rights," he said. "There are a lot of different views on where gun rights can go in the future, but we can't do that without our Second Amendment."

However, Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said the resolution goes too far.

"Decent, law-abiding Iowans have a right to bear arms, yes," he said. "But they won't benefit from this resolution — criminals will.

"The people who are pushing for these new gun laws are the same ones who, two years ago, said they only wanted Iowa to become a 'shall-issue' state. So I have to question where these people will stop."

Jacoby pointed to the Iowa Family Defense Act, a bill before the House that would legalize lethal force against someone who they consider to be a threat, as an example of where gun rights in Iowa could be heading.

"This bill opens up whole new conversations and potentials we have never had to consider before, and should never have to consider," the Coralville Democrat said.

Jacoby indicated that Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, was likely to oppose the resolution, leaving it with little chance of passing in the Senate.

"The fact is this resolution is simply a political ploy in an election year," Jacoby said. "The process of changing the Constitution takes years, so this will benefit Republican politicians far more than those who voted for them."

However, Windschitl said Iowans across the political spectrum have contacted him in support of the resolution, and urged him not to give up the fight.

"Iowans are already convinced that Iowa needs this legislation," he said. "It's about convincing their legislators that this is what their constituents want."

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