Legislature mulls lowering gun age


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Twelve-year-olds could potentially shoot a handgun in Iowa if a bill in the state Legislature passes.
On Jan. 30, a House subcommittee passed the bill, which would lower the legal age that minors may use a handgun under supervision.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he expects the bill will have to go through a long process and jump through many hoops before it comes to fruition.

The next step, he said, will be for proponents of the bill to discuss whether the legal age should be lowered from 14 to 12 or be done away with altogether.

“There is quite a ways to go,” he said. “You can absolutely be a proponent of the Second Amendment and gun ownership and still have disagreements on whether the age should be 14, 12 or zero.”

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said although he only has preliminary knowledge of the bill, he would like to learn why legislators want to lower the legal age.

“The apparent rifles, and so forth, are already available for folks at that age … but the distinction was that they were going to lower the age for handguns, and I didn't see any justification,” he said.  “I don't see why it makes much of a difference, [and] I think there are big ‘why’ and ‘why push this now’ kind of questions that seems to be open.”

Hagle said possible positive outcomes could arise in the case of a home invasion, where children may need to defend themselves. However, he added even a supporter of Second Amendment rights may still consider a lower age to be too extreme.

Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, said that although he hasn’t reviewed the bill fully, he thinks it is something worth serious consideration.

“If kids get that training earlier, it’s always a good thing,” he said. “[If families are going to have guns around], it’s a good thing that kids can have some safety training early on rather than being curious and attempting to shoot the guns and handle guns on their own.”

Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone County, said emphasis on the need for supervision will be the key to passing the bill.

“The bill only applies to the children who are using handguns under the supervision of parents or instructors,” he said. “[The Legislature isn’t] just turning children loose with guns … it helps younger children understand what guns are all about [and that] it’s not like on TV.”

Rep. Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield, said any bill that would potentially lower the legal age to use handguns would be a danger to families and children.

“As a father and a person who has a longtime relationship with firearms, I think we should not lower the age,” he said. “We should keep it at the level we would teach children to use serious weapons.”

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