Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Iowa legislature passed one of the loosest "shall issue" gun permit laws in the country. The bill appeared to have died in the legislature's "funnel", but Democratic leaders revived it, and the final version passed both chambers by wide margins. Democrats presumably thought supporting the top legislative priority of the National Rifle Assocation would save many of their vulnerable incumbents. But even though the NRA endorsed Governor Chet Culver and many Democratic lawmakers, Republicans made huge gains in Iowa last month.
Now the NRA plans "a major push for expanded gun rights in Iowa," Jennifer Jacobs reported in today's Des Moines Register. The organization's priorities for the 2011 legislative session are listed after the jump.
1. Eliminate all permit requirements for carrying open or concealed weapons. Currently only Alaska, Arizona and Vermont have no gun permit requirements.
2. Bar cities or counties from restricting where people can carry guns (for instance, in municipal buildings). As usual, Republicans who supposedly believe in "local control" will make an exception when it's politically convenient.
3. Make it easier for Iowans to defend themselves with deadly force, and ensure that "any Iowan who used justifiable force should not be held civilly or criminally liable." Jacobs' article suggests that the NRA's preferred language would not only apply to people defending themselves on their own property, but could apply anywhere people feel they or their families are being threatened. Current Iowa law imposes a "duty to retreat" on citizens unless they have no alternative but fighting back with deadly force.
Lots of things could be considered threatening someone's family, like an unsafe lane change on a highway. I wonder if the NRA's lobbyist thinks someone who reaches for a gun in that situation should be protected from all civil and criminal liability.
4. Add an amendment on the right to bear arms to Iowa's constitution. The legislature could pass an amendment in 2011, but would need to approve it again after the 2012 elections in order to get the measure on the ballot for a public vote in November 2014.
5. Prohibit state or local officials from confiscating guns "during a state of emergency." The NRA's lobbyist told Jacobs some gun owners had weapons confiscated after Hurricane Katrina. I never heard of anything like that happening after the biggest natural disaster in Iowa history, the 2008 floods.
6. Amend Iowa's new "shall issue" law to remove training requirements the NRA considers "burdensome and unnecessary." When that bill was debated during the 2010 session, advocates cited those training requirements to reassure skeptics about the risks of removing sheriffs' discretion to deny permits.
Jacobs quoted a few law enforcement officials expressing concern about the NRA's agenda:
"If all of this legislation were passed, I think it's potentially dangerous," said Bremer County Sheriff Duane Hildebrandt, a Republican. "I think it's taking a major leap. I hope Iowans think long and hard before they pass most of this legislation." [...]
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner, a Democrat, said that without a permit system, sheriffs can't keep permits from people with mental health or substance abuse issues or other disqualifiers. It isn't a good idea to leave it up to a person to know whether he or she is legally entitled to carry weapons, he said.
The lack of required training is another serious problem, Gardner said.
Sorry, sheriffs: statehouse Republicans won't listen to law enforcement officials if your opinions contradict the NRA's position. I doubt Iowa Senate Democrats will be willing to block the NRA's agenda either. I can't imagine Terry Branstad vetoing any bill that makes it easier for Iowans to carry guns. Even though the NRA endorsed Culver for governor, the organization also gave Branstad an "A" rating.
Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.