Legislators respond to issues of gun laws in Iowa City


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Gun control, partially in response to the Trayvon Martin case, formed a cornerstone of public concern at an Iowa City legislative forum held this past weekend.

The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters in Johnson County, brought local legislators to the Iowa City Public Library to interact with locals, including students from North Central Junior High.

Sophia Perez asked the panel about gun control. The seventh-grader asked legislators to look more into who can carry a gun.

"I have noticed lately there have been a lot of issues with domestic violence," she said, who is working on a school project on the issue. "I found it really sad, and I wanted to take effort in that."

Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, responded directly to Perez's question, citing her concerns over a recently passed House bill to include the 2nd Amendment in the Iowa Constitution.

"This new law — that the Senate will not do — will make every place a more dangerous place to be," she said. "I worked on domestic-violence bills, and they are very hard to pass. We will continue to fight for more legislation."

The legislators at the forum — all Democrats — agreed with Lensing that the right to bear arms has the potential to become a danger to the public.

Republican legislators were asked to attend but none were present.

"I believe the 'Stand Your Ground' bill went too far," said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville. "I'm afraid what happened [with Trayvon Martin] is what many of us predicted what would happen."

Martin was a 17-year-old in Florida who was shot by George Zimmerman after Zimmerman thought he was suspicious. Martin was unarmed when Zimmerman confronted him.

But Sen. Sandra Greiner, R-Keota, said allowing people the right to bear arms can make an area safer.

"I think [current gun laws] need to be enforced," she said. "I think that if everyone operated under the assumption that anyone on the street could be carrying a weapon, I think people would start behaving themselves."

According to 2011 U.S. Census data, 9,484 homicides were attributed to firearm use nationwide in 2008.

Though citizens carrying handguns could defer crime, Greiner said, such concerns will never disappear.

"We're never going to eliminate crime," she said. "The whole premise is if they really thought that there was a potential that they were going to be [harmed], I think it would reduce crime."

Jeff Burkett, the president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, said he felt allowing people to carry guns could lower crime rates.

Yet Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said expanded gun laws could do more harm than they prevent.

"If a person has a handgun in a home, the likelihood of it being used against a family member or a friend is 10 times greater," she said. "That is not going to make anybody safer. It makes no sense at all for us to be pushing forward these gun laws."

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