Republicans in the Iowa legislature are one step away from putting a proposed gun rights amendment on Iowa’s 2022 ballot.
Twenty-nine Senate Republicans this afternoon voted to present the proposed constitutional amendment to Iowa voters next year. Senator Dan Dawson, a Republican from Council Bluffs, said the part of the amendment that says any gun-related laws challenged in court should be subject to “strict scrutiny” is important.
“We have an army of lawyers out there and an army of advocacy groups that have launched an assault against the Constitution,” Dawson said. “Now we all know how lawyers love the gray area…They like undefined terms. That’s how we get our billable hours.”
Zach Wahls of Coralville, the Democratic leader in the Iowa Senate, said just three other states have constitutional amendments on gun rights that go as far as this one.
“We’re going to have to try to explain to the people of Iowa what strict scrutiny is,” he said. “You’re going to try to explain it because you think that it’s great. We’re going to try to explain it because we’ve got really big concerns about it, but the thing I want to underscore is nobody knows what will happen if this amendment is adopted.”
Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, suggested gun laws that limit kids’ access to guns or that require permits for concealed weapons may be struck down if the amendment passes.
“Things have changed,” Bisignano said. “We want a document that we could change, that we could apply to our life, not to people who lived 300 years ago.”
Republican Senator Brad Zahn of Urbandale responded.
“I’ve always been very frustrated when people call our Constitution a ‘living, breathing document.’ It’s not,” Zaun said, “and that’s what scares a lot of people.”
Zaun says the amendment’s needed because it will create a high legal standard to protect gun rights. GOP leaders plan to bring this proposed amendment up for a vote in the Iowa House tonight. That’s the final step in a multi-year legislative process to get the proposed amendment eligible for a statewide vote in 2022.