Senate approves omnibus-lite gun bill

SuppressorBy Bob Eschliman


Looking on the surface, the Iowa Senate – in a broad, bipartisan way – voted to undo a more than 30-year-old injustice inflicted upon Iowa gun owners. But, that’s just on the surface.

In adopting Senate File 427 on a 46-4 vote Tuesday, the Senate instead rejected a much broader House-approved version of the bill that would have provided more freedom to Iowans with regard to their Second Amendment rights. But, as Senate President Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) frequently pointed out throughout the afternoon and early evening during debate, SF 427 was only a bill about firearm suppressors.

Currently, any mechanical device that silences, muffles, or suppresses a firearm – a firearm suppressor – is considered an offensive weapon, and has been since the early 1980s. Anyone in possession of an offensive weapon may be found guilty of a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500.

SF 427 strikes that provision, making it legal to possess firearm suppressors, and establishes a new provision by which a person can apply to law enforcement to be allowed to make and sell firearm suppressors. Such applications may only be denied for specific reasons.

This version is substantially different from its original form, Senate Study Bill 1251, which also dealt with concealed carry permits, permits to transfer firearms, firearms training, and the confidentiality of permit applications. Many of those provisions are still contained in House File 527.

That bill was approved three weeks earlier on a 75-24 vote in which all Republicans and roughly 20 Democrats voted in favor of the proposed legislation. It also had the support of both the Iowa gun lobby and various law enforcement organizations across the state.

Initially, Democrats offered an amendment to require that concealed carry permit holders must have their permits in their immediate possession, and failure to do so may be punishable as a simple misdemeanor. The amendment also required law enforcement to verify by electronic means, if possible, the validity of the permit.

Republicans then offered their own amendment to that amendment that would strike the Democrat changes and amend SF 427 to match HF 527. After some political theatrics involving caucuses and quorum calls, that amendment was withdrawn and Republicans instead asked for a ruling that the Democrat amendment was not germane.

That proposed amendment was thrown out. And, after some more caucusing and waiting for drafting, the Republicans returned with three more amendments to the bill. One of those amendments, which would have made SF 427 match HF 527, failed on a 26-24 party line vote.

The others were thrown out after they were ruled to not be germane. One would have added “stand your ground” language to the bill, and was offered by state Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City). During his opening remarks introducing the amendment, he said he knew what would happen to it.

Both Bertrand and state Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) chastised Democrats for “putting politics ahead of policy” during the debate. They both urged the Senate leadership to bring the rest of the proposed legislation up for a vote before this week’s second legislative funnel.


CLICK HERE to see video of the first portion of the floor action on SF 427. CLICK HERE to see video of the second portion of the floor action on the bill.