DES MOINES — Early voting for Iowa’s General Election began this week and a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution is on the back of the ballot.
Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition says gun rights advocates began lobbying for this amendment 12 years ago. “We realized that Iowa was one of only six states that has no state level constitutional protection of the right to keep and bear arms,” Rogers says, “and that didn’t seem right to us.”
If adopted, the state’s constitution would say Iowans have an “individual right” to keep and bear arms. It goes on to say that any restrictions of that right would be subject to a legal standard called strict scrutiny. Rogers says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer greatly expanded gun rights nationwide, requiring gun restrictions to be judged on the “text, history and tradition” of the federal Second Amendment.
“Frankly, the strict scrutiny thing I believe has largely been muted, but we can’t go back 12 years and rewrite the amendment and this is an all or nothing deal, I think,” Rogers says. “We’ll have this one chance and we won’t see another opportunity to put this in the state constitution in our lifetime.”
Critics say if this state constitutional amendment is adopted, it will be nearly impossible to pass new gun safety measures in Iowa.
“At a time of increasing gun violence, failing to allow for common sense gun laws makes no sense,” Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said, “and greatly endangers all of us.”
The sheriff spoke at a recent news conference organized by Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws, a coalition of 30 different groups. “We are not anti-gun, we are not anti-Second Amendment and we are not here to suggest taking your guns away,” Gardner said. “We are, however, here to inform you of a very poorly worded amendment that definitely will not make Iowans safer.”
The only other states with similar constitutional amendments are Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana.