Following the November elections, Iowa legislators are looking to pass a gaggle of gun-friendly legislation in the Hawkeye State.
“As a whole, this puts us light-years beyond where we’re at currently,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley who spearheaded drafting the bill. “If we can get this down to the governor’s desk, I believe that Iowans will see this as a wholesale change that they approve of and agree with.”
A three-member subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee signed off on the bill Thursday.
The Iowa Firearms Coalition focused its lobbying power on flipping control of the Senate ahead of the November 2016 elections. Now that Senate Democrats no longer hold the power to block legislation they dislike, coalition president Barry Snell said he and his members are excited to see changes moving forward.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Snell said. “I think we’re all pretty positive and excited that the things that we’ve striven for these past years are finally coming to fruition and that they are a real possibility now instead of just fantasy.”
“We want to work with Republican lawmakers,” said Amber Gustafson, leader of the Iowa chapter for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Because the truth is that no Republican lawmaker puts forth a piece of legislation with the desire to increase gun violence in Iowa. Nobody wants that. So we’re united in that. But sometimes there are many ways of looking at an issue.”
Some of the major changes in the legislation include ‘stand your ground’ provisions, of which Snell said, “We’ve seen in other states in the past, for example, where somebody is the victim of a home invasion, and they unfortunately have to shoot the person, and then the family (of the convicted criminal) turns around and sues them. Even if they win — and they almost always do win, it’s not a question of that — it’s that now they have a $200,000 legal bill.”
Another major change would be to lift the restriction against minors. Current state law prevents anyone under the age of 14 to touch, handle or shoot a handgun, even under the instruction of parents or firearms instructors. The bill would allow youth under the age of 21 to possess a pistol or revolver while under direct supervision of a parent or guardian who is at least 21 years old.
Other changes proposed in legislation include:
- The legalization of short-barreled rifles and shotguns as well as machine guns
- New penalties on “straw purchases” of firearms
- Allowing any member of the public who is lawfully carrying a pistol or revolver to do so within the Capitol
- Elimination of Iowa’s “permit to acquire” necessary to purchase a handgun
- Making concealed carry permits ‘lifetime permits’
- Permit-holder confidentiality
- Blocking cities, counties and the Iowa Board of Regents from enacting restrictions on the use of firearms
“If we have the opportunity to write some protections into our laws now before a situation like this would occur, why wouldn’t we do that?” Windschitl asked. “I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”
“Our intent is to protect Iowans at all cost,” he said. “This will allow Iowans more freedoms and the ability to exercise those freedoms in a responsible fashion.”