Iowa House approves Gadsden Flag specialty license plate

DES MOINES — Iowans could pay extra for a license plate that bears the message “don’t tread on me” if a bill that’s cleared the Iowa House becomes law.

The new specialty license plate would feature the image of the Gadsden Flag, with its coiled rattlesnake on the left side of the plate, “giving the Gadsden flag the respect it deserves as a symbol which memorializes our American history and the fight that we had to fight to get our liberty,” said Representative Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Birmingham.

The Gadsden Flag design dates back to the Revolutionary War. The snake on the flag features 13 rattles that represent the 13 colonies that revolted against Great Britain.

“I can’t think of anywhere in the world where individual rights, individual sovereignty has been more cherished and respected than here in the great State of Iowa,” Shipley said, “so I think having this display on our license plate will be another great addition to the right fabric of our state.”

The bill passed with the support of 60 Republicans. All House Democrats voted no. The fees from these specialty plates would be distributed as grants to groups that promote education and training about the right to keep and bear arms. Democratas like Representative Dave Jacoby of Coralville say that means the money will go to the National Rifle Association.

“The bill itself diverts tax dollars from a 500% fee increase to a private organization with political agendas,” Jacoby said.

Democrats unsuccessfully proposed a series of alterntives to finance things like children’s mental health services or anti-discrimination programs instead.

“There are problems in this state, there are issues this state is facing,” House Deocratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said, “and we are spending time on a new license plate to fund the NRA.”

Shipley, the only lawmaker to speak in favor of the bill during House debate, said the plate recognizes the “sacred value” of the right to keep and bear arms.

There are a lot of men and women who support the Second Amendment, practice the Second Amendment, exercise their freedom,” Shipley said, “and those people tend to contribute to the public safety we enjoy as Iowans.”

The bill now goes to the Iowa Senate, where a similar bill was introduced last year. About a dozen states sell Gadsden Flag specialty license plates, including Missouri and Kansas.