The Iowa House has passed a bill that would greatly expand the rights of Iowa gun owners.
Republican Representative Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley used President Trump’s verbal shorthand for “big league” in his final argument for the bill, declaring it would make “bigly changes.”
Moments later the bill passed on a 58-39 vote, with two Democrats voting for it along with all but one of the Republicans present in the House. Three lawmakers were absent when the votes were cast.
Earlier in the day, Windschitl said gun rights have been “encroached upon” for “generations.”
“We have a right to carry firearms for protection and self defense,” Windschitl said.
The bill would insert “stand your ground” language in Iowa law, removing the “duty to retreat” in a public place when confronting danger. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton who’s a lawyer, said the bill sets a dangerous precedent.
“You can stand your ground now. Shoot first. Ask questions later,” Wolfe said. “…That’s not the kind of Iowa I want to live in.”
Windschitl said people who defend themselves or someone else should have “immunity” from criminal or civil prosecution.
“This is not shoot first, ask questions later,” Windschitl said. “This is Iowans get to make a decision that will not put them in jail for the rest of their life if some jury thinks they should have first tried to run away.”
Representative Ras Smith, a Democrat from Waterloo, said he and other African Americans are “terrified” by the “stand your ground” provisions in the bill.
“That’s because of our natural burden, the assumption or perception that I’m a threat because of the color of my skin,” Smith said.
Smith and other African American lawmakers referred to the acquittal of a neighborhood watchman who shot teenager Trayvon Martin to death in Florida four years ago.
“The impact of this legislation on people who look like me, but may not dress like I do when I’m here Monday through Thursday will be an increased risk of being killed,” Smith said. “As recently as April of 2016 there were cross burnings in Dubuque. I wonder if the those who set that cross ablaze may see ‘stand your ground’ as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
Smith then put a hoodie on over his suit and tie to illustrate how he and other African American men in Iowa might resemble Trayvon Martin.
“With these tattoos…and these earrings, this is what I look like, so this is that threat that you can perceive every day,” Smith said. “So maybe I should teach those young men the mantra of ‘hands up, don’t shoot.'”
Some supporters of the bill say it does not go far enough. They argue Iowans should have the right to carry a gun — openly or concealed in a holster or pursue — without being required to get a government permit.
“John Wayne once said: ‘Gun control requires concentration and a steady hand,'” said Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is the only gun control I’m interested in.”
Representative Shannon Lundgren, a Republican from Peosta, said “restrictive” gun laws aren’t working in Chicago.
“The bad guys will kill you to get what they want,” Lundgren said. “With this bill, the good guys — law-abiding citizens — are now able to protect themselves.”
Officials say 275,000 Iowans currently have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The bill makes the personal information on those permits confidential. The bill also would allow those Iowans to carry a concealed handgun, pistol or revolver into the state capitol building.
“Inside this capitol, underneath this golden dome, if those folks have a permit to carry, they should be able to carry that firearm in this building,” Windschitl said. “After all, they’re paying for this building. They pay for our salaries. They pay for these seats we sit in. Their Second Amendment rights should not be abridged at the door just because it makes someone feel safer.”
The bill would let citizens sue cities and counties that establish “guns free zones,” too. Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, cited the 1986 murder of Mount Pleasant’s mayor during a city council meeting as he announced his opposition to the bill.
“There are things in this bill that are right. Stand your ground — fine. But the capitol building? No,” Heaton said. “And, especially,denying the right to my city council to forever forbid weapons — except in the hands of security — in that city councilroom.”
The bill would let Iowa’s schools, community colleges and Iowa’s three public universities bar guns from any campus or school building.