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Independent Senator: “We Don’t Need Guns at the Capitol”

Joyce Russell/IPR
Sen. David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan)

The only Independent member of the Iowa Senate, David Johnson of Ocheyedan, is urging lawmakers not to approve a gun rights bill that will allow anyone with a permit to be armed at the Iowa Statehouse.   

I did not have to do any firing test to get this permit. -Sen. David Johnson

The provision is part of a wide-ranging NRA-backed bill that has passed the House and awaits debate by the full Senate.  

At a statehouse news conference, Johnson held up his own weapons permit, which he says shows he supports the second amendment.

“This is my concealed carry permit,” Johnson said.  “I do have that.”  

Johnson referred to the fact that legislators do not have to walk through metal detectors to enter the capitol, so a lawmaker with a weapons permit is already free to walk in with a gun.   

Johnson says gun owners argue that if legislators can carry weapons into the statehouse, then all citizens should be able to.

Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
Gun bill opponents pediatrician Amy Shriver, Iowans for Gun Safety Board President Carletta Knox Seymour, and First Unitarian Minister Erin Gingrich

“Gunowners would say anybody who has a permit is carrying already which isn't true,” Johnson said.  “I'm not carrying.  

“We don’t need guns at the capitol." 

On another issue, Johnson said he did not have to show competence with a weapon in order to acquire his permit.   

“I did not have to do any firing test to get this permit,” he said.

Democrats in the Iowa House tried unsuccessfully to amend the gun bill to mandate 20 hours of training in order to get a permit to carry a weapon.

Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton) said the online training the bill allows isn’t enough for an amateur.

Human rights are being overlooked for gun rights. -Carletta Knox Seymour

“They’ll go online for two or three hours, turn in their paperwork to get a weapon, then purchase a weapon,” Breckinridge said during House debate. “They may never handle it, or if they do handle it, it’s very minimal.”

At the news conference, a representative with Iowans for Gun Safety spoke out against the bill.

“Human rights are being overlooked for gun rights," said Board President Carletta Knox-Seymour.

The gun safety group wants the Senate to amend the bill to eliminate so-called Stand Your Ground language which expands a gunowner’s right to claim self-defense.

A pediatrician spoke out against the bill’s provision to allow children to handle handguns with the supervision of a parent or guardian.

The bill passed the House on March 7th by a vote of 58-39.

"We've still got our work cut out for us when we move this over to the Senate," said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley).