The right to keep and bear arms could get extra protection in the state of Iowa if a proposal to amend the state constitution passes and is placed before voters on the 2022 ballot.
The proposed amendment is simple and clear, stating that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” but adding that “any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny,” which is the highest level of judicial review. On Tuesday, the issue received its first subcommittee hearing, and passed on a 2-1 vote.
Republicans, who control both the Iowa House and Senate, and gun rights advocates say the amendment language is important to protect the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Democrats and advocates for stronger gun control laws say the “strict scrutiny” language jeopardizes the future of gun safety laws in the state.
“Our language is written with the knowledge that 44 other states’ constitutional provisions, in many cases, failed to protect against egregious gun control laws,” Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said Tuesday. “The strict scrutiny language is of great importance in protecting this fundamental individual right.”
Iowa is one of just a half-dozen states that have no mention of the right to keep and bear arms in its state constitution, and it looks like most Democrats in the state legislature want to keep it that way. Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, for example, called the proposed amendment “truly extreme.”
“The truth is that the language in this amendment poses a direct threat to Iowa public safety laws that protect our communities by keeping guns out of the hands of people who we all agree shouldn’t have them,” she said. “This isn’t a conversation about your grandfather’s hunting rifle.”
No, this isn’t a conversation about your grandfather’s hunting rifle. This is a conversation about the most commonly-sold centerfire rifle in 2021. It’s a conversation about 150-million ammunition magazines in the United States that gun control activists want to make illegal. And the truth is that the language in the proposed constitutional amendment doesn’t pose a threat to any public safety laws. It poses a threat to unconstitutional infringements on the right to keep and bear arms in the name of public safety.
This is actually the second attempt by lawmakers to put this language before voters in the state. The legislature passed the amendment in 2018, but they had to start the process over again in 2019 when the Iowa Secretary of State failed to publish notifications of the proposed amendment in newspapers around the state as required by law.
The legislature re-started the process in 2019, and the amendment passed by a 33-16 vote in the Senate and a 53-46 vote in the House. Since then the GOP has added to its ranks in the House, which is a good portent for approval this year. If the bill does pass out of the legislature, it will appear on the 2022 ballot and voters will get to decide whether or not to enshrine the right to keep and bear arms in the state constitution.