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Lawmakers Advance Bills To Allow Guns On Some School And Work Property

gun subcommittee
Katarina Sostaric
Sen. Jason Schultz and Sen. Jake Chapman consider gun-related proposals at the Iowa Capitol on Thursday.

Lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to allow Iowans to have loaded firearms on work and school property, which would override some employers’ no-firearm policies.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said it’s difficult for Iowans to carry the guns they have permits for when restrictions are in place at work and their children’s schools.

“I think these are a very good, common sense recognition that Iowans and Americans in general have a right to keep and bear arms, and keep and bear arms during their daily routine throughout the day,” Schultz said.

One of the bills would prohibit businesses and other employers from fully banning firearms on their property. Employees could keep their firearm locked in their car in their work parking lot.

“We strictly view this as a private property rights issue,” said Brad Hartkopf, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, which opposes the bill. “This legislation infringes upon an employer’s private property rights by saying they can’t have a policy prohibiting weapons in their parking lots or on their property.”

Some education and religious groups also oppose this. It would apply to employees of religious facilities and schools, as well as businesses based in Iowans’ homes.

The Iowa Board of Regents currently has a policy banning firearms on campus, and some churches and other houses of worship in the state ban guns.

Laura Hessburg is a lobbyist for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which opposes both bills. She said she has received calls about domestic violence incidents in workplaces, one of which wasn’t fatal because the perpetrator’s gun wasn’t loaded.

“Sometimes you have to balance those compelling inconveniences with public safety,” Hessburg said.

The proposal to allow guns in work parking lots advanced with the unanimous support of three-person panel made up of two Republicans and one Democrat.

Guns on school property

A second Senate panel of two Republicans and one Democrat, also led by Schultz, advanced a related bill that would allow people dropping off kids or items at school to have a gun on them while in a school parking lot or driveway. This would only apply to Iowans who have a valid permit to carry a weapon.

It’s currently legal to have a gun in a car on school grounds if it’s unloaded and locked in a case, out of reach.

School and religious groups are also opposed to this measure.

“I’m thinking of the convenience aspect,” teacher Paula Blake said. “I want you to know that it’s been very inconvenient to have to do lockdown drills.”

Blake added schools may go into a lockdown if a gun is seen on school property.

But supporters say it’s inconvenient and increases the possibility of an accidental shooting if gun owners have to unload their guns before being on school property.

Richard Rogers, a lobbyist for the Iowa Firearms Coalition, said the bill would benefit gun owners.

“In some cases, they may be unaware that they are committing a felony by driving onto the school property…as they do everywhere else,” Rogers said.

Both bills advanced to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter