Some county attorneys are raising concerns about a gun-related bill that’s under consideration in the legislature. The bill would shield Iowans from prosecution if they use deadly force to defend themselves or others, wherever they may be.
Assistant Polk County Attorney Jeff Noble worries the bill would encourage people to go out looking for conflict rather than avoid it. Noble told a house subcommittee people in his office have a nickname for the bill.
“House File 007: the license to kill bill,” Noble said, a reference to the fictional secret agent James Bond, also known as 007.
Noble told legislators he worries people who are intoxicated or mentally ill will hear about the bill and feel they have greater freedom to shoot someone, wherever they are. “Because of the specific language that encourages you to stand your ground and meet force with force,” Noble said. “That’s the big philosophical change from a statute that right now says de-escalate if you can, retreat if you have the opportunity.”
Steven Foritano is the bureau chief in the Polk County Attorney’s office. He told the three legislators on the subcommittee that his office would never prosecute someone who acted in self defense or intervened to prevent a kidnapping or shooting. Foritano warned lawmakers this proposal could give blanket immunity to anyone with a gun.
“Where we are going to see the use of this bill is in the gang shootouts; it’s in the domestic cases and it’s going to be in the bar fights where you have people that shouldn’t have guns do have guns and using this bill as a defense to further their criminal activities,” Foritano said.
Key Republicans who back the bill say they’ll work with prosecutors and may tweak the bill before it is considered by the House Public Safety Committee in a week or two. Current law provides a sort of blanket immunity for those who use guns to defend themselves or their property when they’re at home or in their place of business. The bill would extend that immunity to other places.