‘Stand Your Ground’ Moving Through Senate

Senate subcommittee for HF 517.

Senate subcommittee for HF 517.

Following passage in the House, the gun omnibus bill, HF 517, began the process in the Iowa Senate on Tuesday.  A subcommittee hearing was held, chaired by Senator Dan Dawson (R, Council Bluffs) with Senator Brad Zaun (R, Urbandale) and Senator Janet Petersen (D, Des Moines).

Speaking on behalf of the bill, Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition said that “the right to self-defense is among the most basic of all human rights.  Even the simplest forms of life have the mechanisms to resist and avoid danger.  The right to keep and bear arms is part of the design of the American experiment in self-government.  Even those who are not very familiar with our Constitution know that this right is protected by the Second Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights.  The United States has affirmed these rights.  It protects the privacy of Iowans who purchase firearms, and creates uniformity in state laws.  It recognizes the right and responsibility of parents to supervise and train their children.  Finally, it provides protection for those who find themselves in a situation where they have to defend themselves.”

Meredith Gibson, a 13-year old competitive shooter, told how she and her younger sister Natalie and their parents have been advocating to remove the youth age restriction on handguns for four years.  “We are not trying to form a toddler militia or to have Concealed Carry.  Natalie and I just want to go back to doing our sport which is three-gun shooting.  Iowa is the only state in the nation that will not allow us to participate in our sport.”

Nathon Gibson of the Iowa Firearms Coalition spoke specifically to the youth shooting provision in HF 517.

“My daughters Meredith and Natalie have been shooting since they were six and seven years old.  The primary purpose of that was for me to teach them gun safety.  I didn’t want them to be curious.  So when they asked, I took them out and trained them on how to use guns as a tool and not as a dangerous weapon to kill someone.  Most Iowans don’t even know that it’s illegal for them to take their children out to shoot .22 revolvers.  No other state has this restriction.  What we are looking for is to remove this rule so that youth can compete in shooting sports.”

Barry Snell, executive director of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, said “This is a civil rights bill that applies to everyone.  However, because this bill has been treated like a privilege, this fundamental right has been chipped away.  A lot of people claim that this bill is a radical expansion of gun rights.  On the contrary, I argue that this bill takes back pieces of our rights that have been abdicated over time.  This is a bill that most Iowans want.  Every time a gun bill is brought forward, those in the minority whip up a frenzy, prophesying that this bill will bring back the Wild West with gun fights in the streets, and a handful of flawed and biased anti-gun studies are dredged up to support their argument.  For many, it’s a race to the bottom to see who can be the most offensive or sarcastic, and yet each time these prophecies are made, nothing happens.  It is high time that we stopped treating the Second Amendment like a second-class right in Iowa”.

John Thompson, a veteran and a member of the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee, spoke in favor of HF 517.

“There are two big issues that got me active in politics. One of them is gun rights.  I grew up on a farm around guns. I joined the Army at 17. But it wasn’t until I’d been deployed to Iraq that I bought my own personal firearm and got a Concealed Carry Permit.  In Iraq we were expecting a threat. It changed my whole perspective of personal safety.  The best thing I had protecting me from death was my firearm and the weapons of my responsible teammates. Now, the US is not as dangerous as Iraq. But one thing that is true is that people who walk around unarmed are taking their personal safety for granted.  They are at the mercy of violent criminals.  The notion that you can regulate criminals into compliance is as ridiculous as creating a new law that says “crime should be illegal.”  It has no positive effect on safety.  Laws that protect responsible gun owners make sense. This law makes sense. And this law makes Iowans more safe.”

Lance Shay said that the privacy aspect of HF 517 is important in protecting those with Permits to Carry.  He told of how his house was broken into shortly after Cityview published a list of Permit to Carry holders in the Des Moines area.  “The intruder searched every area where a firearm would have likely been kept.”

Catherine Guthrie-Scanes from Urbandale, expressed opposition to the bill by telling the story of the two Urbandale police officers who were shot a few months ago.

“These two officers were gunned down in cold blood by a good guy with a gun.”

HF 517 was voted out of the subcommittee on a 2-1 vote, with Senators Dawson and Zaun voting in favor and Senator Petersen against.  The bill will be voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday

MacKenzie Dreeszen is a legislative assistant in the Iowa House and a political consultant specializing in fundraising.