Black Iowans Among Those Opposing NRA-backed Bill

Feb 23, 2017

African-Americans turned out for a hearing at the statehouse today on a wide-ranging gun rights bill they say will threaten their safety if it becomes law.   

The bill includes so-called stand-your-ground language, along with broad new rights for carrying weapons.  

Under stand-your-ground, a gunowner can fire if he believes himself to be in danger.  

Laurel Clinton from Des Moines says her three sons may look dangerous to some because they’re black.

“That's the reason why I came here today is because it scares me,” Clinton said.  “And the states that have this law, we're target practice and that's just basically it.”

Reynaldo Johnson of Clive at a hearing on House Study Bill 133, comprehensive gun rights legislation
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

Reynaldo Johnson of Clive describes himself as a large black male.

“I could walk in a room, somebody could get afraid, they feel threatened, I'm on the ground with a bullet in my chest,” Johnson said.

Representatives of opposing groups for gun rights and gun safety crowded into a committee room to comment on the bill, but opponents were in the majority.  

Under the bill, colleges and universities, local governments, and some public buildings like hospitals, can no longer ban weapons.  Firearms could also not be banned at the Capitol.

"We know that we have these contentious conversations and that seems counter intuitive,” said Connie Ryan, a lobbyist for the Iowa Interfaith Alliance.

Also under the bill, background checks would be eliminated for private gun purchases, gun permits would become confidential, and lifetime gun purchases would be allowed.

The Republican-controlled House has approved parts of the bill in the past.    

"For the past decade, we've been fighting this fight, trying to get something like this bill passed in this state," said NRA State Director Scott Rausch. 

Crowd at statehouse hearing on House Study Bill 133
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

“This is a work in progress,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley).  

The bill also allows children to handle pistols with the supervision of a guardian.

“We’re not trying to form a toddler militia,” said 13-year old competitive sharpshooter Meredith Gibson.  

That's a reference to the name opponents have given to that section of the bill.