Backers say House bill addresses labyrinth of gun restrictions

DES MOINES — Republicans in the Iowa House have passed a bill that would force any Iowa city or county with gun restrictions in a government-owned building to screen people at entrances and have an armed guard inside.

Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, said it will help ensure Iowans have the right to self defense. “It is also about the health and safety of our children and our families,” Holt said. “It is about my right as a parent to be prepared to defend my wife and my children — my family.”

The bill would override opinions from the state’s attorney general in 2003 and 2010 that indicated cities and counties could pass resolutions that create gun-free zones.

“I have never understood why someone believes that a gun-free zone will make them safer. In reality, a gun-free zone without screening and security will never stop a sick individual from killing innocent people,” Holt said. “It will stop the law-abiding citizen from carrying protection.”

Representative Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa who voted against the bill, suggested that if it becomes law, Iowans with a permit will be able to carry guns into most any city or county-owned building in the state.

“With the addition of metal detectors and armed security, few entities to pay for these measures,” Gaskill said.

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said it would cost more than $400,000 to staff metal detectors and have armed security at the Story County courthouse.

“This is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “…The constitutional right to own a firearm comes with important responsibility regarding community safety and therefore it must come with conditions.”

Supporters of the bill say Iowa gun owners should not have to navigate a labyrinth of different ordinances. The bill also forbids cities and counties from trying to ban gun modifications or from establishing restrictive zoning aimed at gun shooting ranges.

The House passed the bill on a 52 to 44 vote as dozens of gun rights activists sat in the gallery watching the debate.

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