A proposal to add an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would ensure Iowans have the right to keep and bear arms has cleared an initial hurdle in the Iowa House.
Representative Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley, says Iowa is one of just six states with a constitution that does not provide “gun rights” to its citizens.
“I’ve gotten a lot of people who have talked to me about stuff like this. Why don’t we have that protection in our constitution?” Windschitl says. “There’s a great unease out there.”
If adopted, this proposal would be the toughest constitutional defense of gun rights in the country. Representative Deborah Berry, a Democrat from Waterloo, says she supports the “second amendment rights” spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.
“You know my father was a hunter and so I know all that, but I think sometimes there are some consequences to some of the things we do related to guns and what have you and I’m concerned about that,” Berry says. She says she wants to know more about the proposal before she’ll decide whether to support or oppose it.
Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition says there’s nothing in the state constitution to “guarantee” gun rights in Iowa.
“As our constitution states, you have an inalienable right to defend yourself from threats, but to say that you have that right but that you do not have the right to possess an effective means of doing so, a tool — doesn’t have to be a gun, by the way — that’s nonsensical,” Rogers says.
Supporters like Rogers say the modern-day U.S. Supreme Court has narrowly ruled on gun rights issues and it’s important to enshrine those rights in the state constitution.
“The right to keep and bear arms….despite the fact that it’s an inalienable right, it seems to be one that people try to figure out ways around the constitutional guarantee, to kick it to the curb, sweep it under the rug and so we’ve learned by experience,” Rogers says, “and that’s why this is worded somewhat differently.”
If Iowans approve this constitutional amendment, Representative Windschitl says it would be possible for advocates of gun rights to sue to to get rid of some gun-related laws, like the state law which requires Iowans to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“The intent of this is not to cause controversy,” Windschitl says. “The intent of this is to protect Iowans second amendment rights and it’s meant to do that with the strongest language possible because there have been so many judicial abuses, in my opinion, of our second amendment rights. We’ve come so close to losing those fundamental rights. This is why we have the language crafted as we do.”
The process of amending the state constitution isn’t easy. This proposal must pass the Iowa General Assembly this year, and then sometime in 2013 or 2014 before Iowans could vote on the proposed amendment in November of 2014. Early this morning (Thursday), a three-member House committee gave its approval to setting that process in motion. The proposal — it’s not a bill, but a resolution — will next be considered by the House Public Safety Committee.