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Gun Rights Amendment Heads To Iowa Voters After House And Senate Approval

John Pemble
IPR file
The Iowa House and Senate approved gun rights language that could be added to the Iowa Constitution.

Iowa voters will get to decide next year if gun rights language should be added to the state constitution after Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday.

Iowa is one of a handful of states that does not have gun rights language in its constitution. But Iowa’s proposal goes further than the gun rights language of most states.

It would require courts to use the highest standard of judicial review when evaluating the constitutionality of gun laws. Three other states—Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri—have this provision in their state constitution. Iowa’s proposed amendment reads:

“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.”

Gun regulations would have to be found by a court to be “narrowly tailored” to achieve a “compelling state interest.”

Democrats say that goes too far because it could lead to some of Iowa’s current gun laws being struck down by courts if legal challenges are brought against them.

“To me, this is going to make law enforcement more dangerous,” said Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford. “It’s going to allow background checks not to be done. People freely carrying weapons.”

Kinney added he fears fewer gun restrictions would lead to more gun suicides, and said he

Senate and House Democrats proposed language identical to the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment, but Republicans rejected that.

“What we are talking about here is trying to affirm a civil right and a constitutional right,” said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs. “If we were in different times, Second Amendment language might be appropriate. But we’re not in other times. We have an army of lawyers out there and an army of advocacy groups that have launched an assault against the constitution.”

Republicans have loosened Iowa’s gun laws in the past few years of having complete control of the lawmaking process in the state. The majority of Iowa’s Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican governors.

The gun rights amendment passed 29-18 in the Iowa Senate and 58-41 in the House, along party lines.

The proposed constitutional amendment will take effect if a majority of voters vote to ratify it in 2022.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter