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State Government News

Gun Rights Constitutional Amendment Advances In Iowa House

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Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House of Representatives have advanced a proposal that would add gun rights language to the Iowa Constitution.

Republican lawmakers on a three-member House panel advanced a proposal Tuesday that would add gun rights language to the Iowa Constitution.

The proposed constitutional 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.”

The Republican-led Iowa Legislature passed the measure in 2019. If the House and Senate pass it again this year or next year, the proposed constitutional amendment will go on the ballot in 2022 so all voters can weigh in.

Republican lawmakers and the Iowa Firearms Coalition say the constitutional amendment is needed to protect the state against any future attempts to restrict gun ownership.

“It’s because those who for nearly a century so successfully weaponized the courts to remove constitutional restrictions on government—vastly expanding its powers while throttling individual liberty—now refuse to accept court decisions that make it clear the constitution limits government, not the people,” said Richard Rogers, a lobbyist for the Iowa Firearms Coalition.

But this proposal goes further than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by specifying that gun restrictions will be subject to the highest standard of review used by courts to determine if laws are constitutional.

That’s why opponents—including groups focused on reducing gun violence, some religious organizations, and Democrats—fear the constitutional amendment could be used to dismantle Iowa’s existing gun laws.

Charlotte Eby, a lobbyist for Giffords, said they are concerned the constitutional amendment will make it much easier to bring legal challenges against Iowa’s gun safety laws.

“Because this requires strict scrutiny as a legal standard to be applied to any firearm laws, it’s much more likely a court could strike down important state laws that protect public safety such as Iowa’s background checks, concealed carry and permit to purchase laws,” Eby said.

Some Democratic lawmakers have said they could support adding language to the Iowa Constitution that matches the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but they don’t support the current proposal.

The next step for the proposed constitutional amendment is consideration by the full House Public Safety Committee. On the Senate side, a subcommittee is scheduled to consider the same proposal on Thursday.

The proposed constitutional amendment was previously on track to be on the ballot in 2020, but a “bureaucratic oversight” by Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate forced lawmakers to start the process over again in 2019.