Columnist shoots herself in the foot with complaints about Iowa's new 2A protections

Image by B Tal from Openverse

The handful of hardcore committed anti-gun prohibitionists in Iowa are still salty about the shellacking they received at the ballot box last week, and I can’t blame them. When nearly 2/3rds of the state’s voters approve a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to keep and bear arms in the state constitution and instructing judges to use strict scrutiny when considering the constitutionality of any gun law on the books now or in the future, that says something; in this case, that most Iowans treat their right to armed self-defense seriously, and they weren’t persuaded to cast a vote against that right by the many members of the media and the Democratic establishment who stumped in vain for Amendment 1’s defeat.

In their anger over the amendment’s passage, critics have been quick to accuse supporters of not being smart enough to understand the amendment’s language or unconcerned about violent crime (and more specifically, “gun violence”). Columnist Rehka Basu of the Des Moines Register hit on both of those tropes in her post-election screed about the awfulness of protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

The “strict scrutiny” standard for gun rights being added to our constitution requires any restrictions on gun rights to be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. The new passage says, “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.”

At least a few Iowans say they didn’t realize just by reading it on their ballots the extent of what the amendment would do. A woman who asked to be referred to only by her first name, Taylor, for fear of backlash, lives in Altoona and works in IT. She’s a single parent who says she’s politically “middle of the road.” She emailed me that the question seemed like just “a reiteration of the existing 2nd amendment which I do support under circumstances.” Because her polling place was busy and she had to get to work, she didn’t have time to investigate it further on her phone, and just voted yes.

Now that she knows, she says she feels distraught and fearful for perhaps inadvertently contributing to more violence. It’s especially scary having a daughter who just started kindergarten. “All I can think about is the Parkland shooting sentencing last week, listening about families who have lost their most precious keystones in their family. I am so afraid that could happen in Iowa especially with our growing gun violence in the last few years.”

“No convicted violent offender should ever be allowed to carry a weapon,” said Taylor. “NO gun laws will be able to be passed without hours upon hours of undoing. I’m just purely frustrated with the state of Iowa.” She believes the amendment was intentionally worded “to deceive voters into feeling like their right to bear arms was on the line.”

No offense to Taylor, but she should probably get a second opinion about the amendment’s intent and consequences from a supporter as well, not just a fearmonger like Basu. The “strict scrutiny” that Basu has Taylor convinced will undo every gun law in the state is the same standard that’s used in First Amendment cases at both the state and federal level. It’s not that no gun law can pass constitutional muster; it’s that the law must be narrowly crafted, not broadly written, to achieve the compelling state interest of public safety. Laws prohibiting violent offenders from possessing firearms aren’t really in danger here, but laws that treat the general public as if they’re all violent criminals waiting to happen most certainly will be.

If Taylor truly was confused by the ballot language, she should have studied it more closely beforehand. But honestly, if she’s the Second Amendment supporter that she says she is, she also shouldn’t be freaked out by Amendment 1’s passage or buy in to Basu’s scare tactics.

That’s not her only argument, as I mentioned. Iowans who supported Amendment 1 also apparently don’t care about the racial disparities in “gun violence”.

Black people in Iowa are at least 10 times as likely to die of gun violence than white people, researchers say.

The group Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws called the amendment “reckless,” saying it would “only serve to put Iowans in harms’ way.”

In Wisconsin, gun reformer Tony Evers won-re-election as governor, having defeated a two-term, NRA-backed incumbent in 2018. He has vetoed bills from the Republican-controlled Legislature, including one to allow guns on school grounds and another to let people with gun permits from states with weak concealed-carry requirements carry in Wisconsin.

Now that’s courage, which is something money still can’t buy. It’s also plain common sense, which lately seems in short supply here.

I did a little research, and guess what I found out? In Wisconsin, home to Evers and his “common sense” anti-gun ideology, black residents are 20-times as likely to die from “gun violence” than white residents.

Basu may believe that the best way to address those numbers is through more gun control legislation, but I (and the vast majority of Iowans, apparently) disagree. We know, for instance, that a majority of gun-related crimes in any given community are generated by a small number of prolific offenders, and there’s often quite a bit of overlap between today’s victim and tomorrow’s offender.

About one quarter of all those who were ever convicted of a violent crime (i.e., the offender group), corresponding to the most persistently violent 1 % of the study population, were responsible for a total of 63 % of all violent crime convictions in the country, while almost three quarters of all violent offenders, corresponding to 2.9 % of the population, were convicted only once or twice during the study period. This is in line with previous research that shows a small group of criminally active young adult men to be responsible for a large part of all violent crimesand the high impact of a very small group of especially violent individuals indicated by the high reconviction rates among former prison detainees.

Putting more gun laws aimed at peaceable gun owners in place does absolutely nothing to address the individuals who are actually driving violent crime in Iowa or anywhere else. It’s why I prefer targeted deterrence programs including an increased presence at crime hot spots and programs like Operation Ceasefire that work to get these individuals to stop shooting and turn their lives around, but deliver stiff consequences in the criminal justice system if they persist in their ways. I’m a Second Amendment advocate who cares deeply about the victims of crime and what the proliferation of crime does to communities. I just don’t believe that making it harder for responsible gun owners to protect themselves is the proper or most effective way to combat crime and bring these communities back to life. Quite the opposite. It puts good people in bad neighborhoods at greater risk, while doing nothing to address a broken criminal justice system that routinely sends violent offenders back to the streets with few consequences for serious crimes.

Iowa will not be a more dangerous place as a result of Amendment 1. The state will still have no difficulty within the confines of the constitution to go after violent criminals, as well as to engage in efforts to prevent criminal behavior before there’s a need for incarceration. Efforts to target the civil rights of Iowans with the false promise of greater security, on the other hand, will not end well for the gun control lobby and those who want to turn the Second Amendment into a constantly expanding series of criminal offenses.