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With lawmakers and gun rights activists looking on, Governor Terry Branstad signed Iowa’s most aggressive pro-gun bill into law Thursday.

“Expanding the freedoms and solidifying the constitutional rights of Iowans should always be a goal for our state whose motto is: ‘Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.’ In fact, an article in yesterday’s Washington Post called this legislation, ‘Iowa’s most expansive gun bill ever.’ Of course, that’s the Washington Post, so…” Branstad quipped.

The bill made several changes to Iowa’s archaic gun laws including:

  • Stand Your Ground – Iowans do not have a duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force to defend themselves
  • Capitol Carry – Prevents the Director of the Department of Administrative Services from prohibiting the otherwise lawful carrying, transportation, or possession of any handgun in or on any capitol buildings
  • Permit Privacy – Ends the use and disclosure of information acquired about holders of nonprofessional permits to carry weapons and permits to acquire firearms
  • Youth Shooting and Parental Rights – Iowa youth under the age of 14 are now able to legally handle handguns “under the direct supervision” of a parent or other specified responsible, authorized adult in a safe and responsible way

“Iowans deserve their freedoms back. They deserve their liberties back,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl, who authored the bill.

“These things don’t happen by accident,” Branstad said. “They take, in this case, a long time, and they take a lot of thought and a lot of effort from many people.”

The Governor also took the time to address the youngest Second Amendment activists Iowa’s ever seen after signing HF 517.

“All right! Congratulations,” Branstad said Meredith (13) and Natalie (11) Gibson, the 3-gun shooting sisters who have campaigned tirelessly to change the law for the past four years. “And you’ve got the Brownell shirts on, too. All right!”

Many lawmakers including Senator Joni Earnst, Representative Greg Heartsill, Senator Amy Sinclair were on hand to hug and congratulate the girls and incoming NRA President Pete Brownell attended the signing with the Gibson girls as well.

Following the signing, the Gibson family headed to Crossroads Shooting Sports, an indoor gun range in Johnston, IA., where Meredith and Natalie shot handguns legally for the first time in their home state.

Meredith, who was moved to tears during the bill signing, said it’s a shame that people opposed to the legislation weren’t receptive to what they were trying to accomplish.

“We’re not trying to form a ‘toddler militia’, we’re not trying to concealed carry, all we want to do was change the law so that parents would be able to teach their children gun safety and how to shoot,” Meredith told me at Crossroads. “If parents teach their kids gun safety, the curiosity of guns will be gone and there will be fewer accidents because children will be able to learn gun safety and how to act around them.”

The girls’ biggest fan, their 7-year-old brother Hunter, said he’s proud of his big sisters and couldn’t wait to get home so he could shoot with his family as well.

Meredith’s parting words of advice for her fellow citizens unhappy with restrictions on their gun rights?

“Don’t just sit there and complain,” she said. “Go out there and fight for your rights and other people’s rights.”

Well said, young lady and very well done!