Two years ago, Governor Terry Branstad said he was “satisfied” with Iowa’s gun laws. Now, Branstad has the chance to dramatically change them. The Iowa House this afternoon sent Branstad a bill that sponsors say will “give Iowans their freedoms back” when it comes to their firearms.
“I feel safer having a gun. My wife feels safer having a gun. Hundreds of thousands of Iowans feel safer having a gun. It is the ultimate equalizer,” Republican Representative Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley said. “It takes an 80-year-old grandma and puts her on the exact same playing field as some 18-year-old punk who wants to harass her and steal her pocketbook.”
The bill provides the “Stand Your Ground” legal shield for Iowans who shoot to defend life or property, so they cannot be charged with a crime or sued in civil court.
Critics raised concerns during this afternoon’s discussion. Representative Ruth Ann Gaines, a Democrat from Des Moines who is black, recently called police after Gaines said her new white neighbor shouted: “Get…off my property,” and pointed a shotgun at Gaines’ partner who was in the neighbor’s driveway.
“People are beginning to feel they have a license to be more threatening and I fear that this bill will give a lot of people like my new neighbor an opportunity to show how he really feels,” Gaines said “I don’t like it.”
The bill also lets Iowans with a permit carry a concealed weapon into the state capitol. Representative Art Staid, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, objected to that and other provisions which will let Iowans legally challenge established “gun free zones” in courthouses and other government buildings.
“I find this a dangerous mistake and there will be tragedies that occur in our state as a result,” Staid said.
Windschitl said metal detectors at building entrances and “gun free zones” offer a “false sense of security.”
“I have a fundamental right to self-preservation and self-protection,” Windschitl said, “and when we disarm citizens at the door and we say: ‘We’ve got your back and we’ve got you secured,’ and we don’t, we are doing them a disservice.”
A previous version of the bill would have allowed concealed weapons on the community college and public university campuses in Iowa, but that was removed.
House members approved recent Senate changes in the bill on a voice vote, then gave final legislative approval to the package on a 57-36 vote.