Gun Rights Amendment to Iowa Constitution Clears First Hurdle

Jan 25, 2018

Advocates for and against gun rights spoke out at the Capitol today on a proposed amendment to the Iowa constitution.   

The amendment states that Iowans’ rights to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for all legitimate purposes shall not be infringed, and that courts should strictly scrutinize any attempt to regulate them.    

It spells ...out very clearly...what our 2nd amendment rights are. -Rep. Matt Windschitl

Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) said the amendment backs up second amendment rights already secured by the U.S. Constitution

“It spells it out very clearly and concisely so that there is no question about what our Second Amendment rights are,” Windschitl said, “and that if they are to be regulated the regulations will be held to a very high level of scrutiny by our judicial system.”

Windschitl said he does not intend to use the amendment to throw out Iowa’s gun laws.

“This language is not an attempt to try to circumvent the laws and regulations the state already has or to have them overturned in some future courtroom,” Windschitl said.

But he said any new restrictions would have to show a compelling interest for the good of the people.

Richard Rogers, Iowa Firearms Coalition
Credit John Pemble/IPR

Gun safety advocates were not convinced.

“We're concerned that if this amendment becomes part of our constitution it would make it very difficult to have any future regulation,” said Tom Chapman with the Iowa Catholic Conference.  “And in  fact I think putting in  there strict scrutiny I think that's an invitation to legal action even to some of our current regulations.”

“We are registered opposed to the bill,” said Connie Ryan Terrell with the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa.  “We simply believe that it opens up a whole new can of worms.”

It opens up a whole new can of worms. -Connie Ryan Terrell, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa

The proposed amendment cleared a GOP-dominated three-member panel in the Iowa House.   It must pass two successive general assemblies and be approved by a vote of the people before it is enacted.

“We are declared as undecided on the bill and we are for the reason you just stated, that it will go to a vote of the people and the people will decide what they want,” said Susan Cameron Daemen, the lobbyist for the Iowa State Sheriffs' and Deputies' Association..

Windschihtl said constitutions in 44 states include gun rights provisions.  But opponents of the legislation said only three states include the strict scrutiny language.

Critics said court decisions have shown that the U.S. Constitution already protects Second Amendment rights, so a state constitutional amendment is not needed.  

Rep. Windschitl says later courts may rule differently.