Poll shows majority support for Iowa gun rights ballot initiative

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

There are only two ballot measures dealing with the right to keep and bear arms that are a part of the midterm election cycle; one in Oregon that would impose a host of new restrictions on gun owners, and a ballot initiative in Iowa that would enshrine the right to own and carry a firearm for self-defense in the state constitution.

My colleague John Petrolino is going to have a deep dive on Oregon’s Measure 114 later today, but we also have some new information about Iowa to report on, and thankfully it’s good news for Second Amendment supporters. The first polling of the proposed state constitutional amendment has been released, and if the numbers are even close to being accurate the initiative is headed for a big win.

A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found 58% of likely voters plan to vote for the proposed amendment in the Nov. 8 midterm election. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters would vote against it, and another 6% are not sure.

The poll asked likely voters if they would vote “yes” or “no” and included the full language of the proposed amendment, which states: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

The Nov. 8 vote would be the final step in adopting the proposed amendment, a longtime goal of Republicans in the Iowa Legislature.

Supporters say the amendment is necessary to protect Iowans’ rights from infringement, while opponents say passing the amendment would make it easier to strike down existing gun laws and make it harder to pass new regulations.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats are largely opposed to the referendum, with just 18% of Democratic survey respondents declaring that they’ll vote for the amendment. But 86% of Republicans and nearly two-thirds of independent voters (61% to be precise) surveyed say they’re in favor of the ballot initiative, and given the makeup of Iowa’s electorate, that should be enough for the amendment to handily win passage in just a little more than two weeks.

While the right to keep and bear arms is already protected by the U.S. Constitution, having similar (or even stronger) language in state constitutions can be a real benefit to preventing bad bills from becoming bad laws, and Iowa’s proposed constitutional amendment would arguably provide as much or more legal protections for gun owners than the “text, history, and tradition” test outlined by the Supreme Court in its decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen by mandating that “strict scrutiny” should be applied when considering the constitutionality of gun control laws. Under “strict scrutiny”, the Iowa legislature must have passed a particular law to advance a “compelling governmental interest” like public safety, but lawmakers must have narrowly tailored their legislation to achieve that interest in the least restrictive manner possible.

For some voters, however, the legal intricacies are less important than simply enshrining the right to keep and bear arms in the state constitution. And even some of those leaning towards voting against amendment say the federal constitution should be enough protection.

Poll respondent Heather Bridge, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother from Marion, said she plans to vote “yes.” She said she’s concerned about gun crime and believes that increasing gun ownership among responsible Iowans would help deter criminals.

“If more people were allowed to bear arms here in Iowa, if it was more legal, more people wouldn’t be getting in trouble for it,” she said.

But poll respondent Bob Schroeder, a 73-year-old retired auto technician and former city council member from Postville, said he believes Iowans’ Second Amendment rights are already well-covered by the federal Constitution.

He said he’s concerned about the potential of opening the door for looser regulation.

“I don’t have anything against people owning a gun, but I do have something against these guns that shoot 100 rounds,” he said.

Morlock, who owns guns, said he’s interested in how the strict scrutiny language would be interpreted. Overall, he said, he believes more conversations need to be had about what reasonable restrictions on gun ownership would look like.

“Why can’t we have a conversation about what would be seen as reasonable without people frothing at the mouth?” he asked.

Probably because one person’s “reasonable” approach is another person’s infringement. Schroeder’s opposition to those “guns that shoot 100 rounds”, for example, could be seen as a call to ban all semi-automatic firearms that accept detachable magazines; an approach that frankly wouldn’t survive either strict scrutiny or the text, history, and tradition test laid out by the Supreme Court.

Iowa gun owners need to stay engaged and involved over the next two weeks, but right now things look pretty good for this particular referendum. Oregon’s gun control measure, on the other hand, could be in some trouble; something we’ll discuss in greater detail later today here at Bearing Arms.