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Gun Safety, Gun Rights Groups Square Off in Iowa Senate Races

iowa senate
John Pemble
Iowa Public Radio
Iowa Senate Chambers

Democrats in the Iowa Senate who stood in the way of gun rights bills are now facing opposition for re-election in several districts around the state.  

The Iowa Firearms Coalition is working to defeat the incumbents, in hopes of achieving a Republican majority in the Senate.

Last year the Republican-controlled House approved bills to protect the confidentiality of gun permit holders, and to eliminate age restrictions for children handling guns with adult supervision.    In 2015 a wide-ranging gun bill would have eliminated background checks for private handgun sales.

Several senators have been instrumental in helping us fight bad gun bills

All three  bills died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The coalition is targeting four Democrats in competitive districts.

“We’ve knocked on thousands of doors and run hundreds of radio ads in those districts,” said Iowa Firearms Coalition President Barry Snell, “so overall we're doing pretty well.”

If Republicans take over the Senate, gun rights activists say the climate will be more favorable for their cause.

At the same time, a gun safety organization is targeting the same races, working to get the Democrats re-elected. 

“We do have several senators who have been instrumental in helping us fight bad gun bills,” said Amber Gustafson with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.      “We know that they are in vulnerable races, and we knew our help could make the difference in keeping them in office.”

We have a tense relationship with Senator Sodders

Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) is one of the incumbents the Firearms Coalition is opposing.  

Gun rights bills have died in the Senate Judiciary Committee which Sodders chairs.

"We have a tense relationship with Senator Sodders," Snell said.

Gustafson, who lives in Ankeny, says her group opposed the 2015 legislation that would have eliminated background checks for private handgun sales.

She said there were two bills this year that drew the most attention from the media.

“Those were the toddler-militia bill and the silencer bill,” Gustafson said.  

Gustafson is referring to the bill governing age restrictions for handling firearms. 

A second bill to legalize gun suppressors was approved by both chambers and signed into law by Governor Branstad.  

Moms Demand Action is part of a national organization known as Everytown for Gun Safety which was formed after the school shootings in Newtown Connecticut.

Everytown for Gun Safety is working to defeat Rep. Ken Rizer (R-Cedar Rapids) for his support of the 2015 bill to eliminate background checks for private handgun sales.