2010 Iowa Legislative Session Wrap-Up and Your Gun Owner Rights
By Aaron Dorr Executive Director
Iowa –-(AmmoLand.com)- As the dust settles on the 2010 legislative session it is clear that Iowa Gun Owners has had a major impact on the 2nd Amendment debate at the Capitol and across the state.
There is a saying in politics that the extremes dictate the middle. That’s exactly what took place in Iowa in the 2010 session.
Fifteen months ago when Iowa Gun Owners formed there was practically no momentum here in Iowa in the fight to restore the 2nd Amendment to law abiding Iowans. There was almost no one calling for any changes at all to the arbitrary concealed carry laws Iowans were suffering under.
Iowa was considered a ‘fairly administered’ may issue state where the sheriff may issue you a permit and he may not. Sheriffs had complete control over who carried a weapon for self-defense, and many sheriffs were making it very, very hard to obtain permits. Some issued no permits at all and many of you experienced some combination of this.
Enter Iowa Gun Owners in January of 2009. With your support we began to advocate for the REAL Right-to-Carry bill that would allow all law abiding Iowans the option to carry a weapon for self-defense WITHOUT needing to first obtain government permission. REAL Right-to-Carry allows for you to obtain a permit for reciprocity and it also allows you to openly carry as most other states do. This is not a new concept and is the law currently in Vermont, Alaska, most of Montana, and will likely soon be law in Wyoming and Arizona.
Many people at the Capitol and across the state immediately said that Iowa Gun Owners, and you by default, were crazy and that this ‘extremist’ view of the 2nd Amendment would never work here in Iowa. Even some pro-gun people said that this was too much for Iowa’s political climate and that we’d never get anywhere. We were told to compromise and make deals – which usually means deciding to take gun rights away from a certain age group or people with certain types of mere misdemeanors or the like.
But the board of Iowa Gun Owners does not accept this line of thinking.
You see, when you adopt the principle that you are going to lose, and you merely try to limit how much of your rights you will lose, you still lose.
Iowa Gun Owners went to work building a grassroots army across the state comprised of people just like you to inform the political class in Des Moines that we want our freedoms back – not in 10 years, but now.
At the conclusion of the 2009 legislative session we were able to walk away with a 49-49 procedural vote on REAL Right-to-Carry in the Iowa House. This meant that 49 members of the House were voting to use procedural rules to support REAL Right-to-Carry and this was a huge first step.
Despite what some say, procedural votes certainly count. The first step towards passing a law is to get all the politicians on the record for or against your legislation and that tie vote accomplished that.
During the rest of 2009 Iowa Gun Owners spent our time continuing to grow our base by conducting many direct mail campaigns, going to gun shows from Council Bluffs to Cedar Rapids, speaking at public forums, and mobilizing more and more people. This was easy to do as people naturally gravitate towards freedom and our bill is the clearest expression of freedom available to Iowans regarding the 2nd Amendment.
As the 2010 session approached, Iowa Gun Owners, with the help of nearly 100 volunteers over a multi-day time frame, mailed out ten’s of thousands of pieces of direct mail to gun rights activists all over the state. This mail contained post cards to be mailed into the Capitol urging law makers to pass a REAL Right-to-Carry bill. People responded in waves and this set the stage for what took place during the session.
It is also vital to grasp the political backdrop at work here. With the anti-incumbency wave sweeping the state many anti-gun politicians were desperate to be able to claim that they too are pro-gun. In that context Iowa Gun Owners began seeing drafts, already last November, of the new carry bill that establishment gun groups were going to try to pass in Iowa. You see, even a gun grabber can support a gun bill if it’s so watered down that it’s largely meaningless.
The drafts were terrible and continued to be so as late as two weeks ago. We saw language that would allow you to lose your carry rights if you were ever arrested for an assault – not convicted, just arrested. Another draft would have struck down Iowa’s pre-emption law and would allow individual cities all over the state to pass their own gun laws. That would have been a disaster. Still other drafts allowed the government to deny you your rights if you’d ever been part of proceedings that may result in convictions – think social services at your door because you spanked your child in the park.
The list goes on. Iowa Gun Owners mounted intense battles against all of these provisions and we were successful at eliminating all of this language from the final watered down product.
Despite wanting to appear to be pro-gun, the leadership of the committees where Iowa Gun Owners’ bill resided refused to move them out of their committees. They wanted to appear to be pro-gun – but to heavily regulate that right and make sure that they could still control this right. And so our bills died in committee.
However, we kept working and the politicians in Des Moines continued to get your emails and calls. One time, while I was talking to a Representative, his phone chirped twice in just a few minutes. After reading the emails that he received on his phone, he looked at me and said, “I get these IGO email’s all the time.”
So the message was getting out and it was clear – Iowans want their 2nd Amendment rights back – not something less that is designed to throw us off course and buy political cover for anti-gunners.
In the final hours, literally, of the 2010 session a watered down gun bill was brought forth in both the House and Senate. Let me be clear, this bill was a step forward over current law because it is ‘shall issue.’ But this came at a terrible price.
I will briefly summarize the problems with this bill in order of importance:
This bill allows the government to deny you a permit if they think that you may do something unlawful or negligent IN THE FUTURE with a firearm. This is ridiculous on its face and you can imagine the implications to this. This bill requires you to be retrained every five years when you renew your permit. This was not the case prior to this bill being passed. That’s right, you need to pay $100, give or take, every five years. It is hard enough to find a class as it is, imagine what it will be like now!
We predict that firearms instruction will be a new growth industry in Iowa and it’s sad that gun rights organizations are supporting this bill when they stand to financially gain.
A quick review of the numbers: Currently there are about 30,000 permit holders in Iowa. That number will jump with shall issue, let’s assume that it climbs to 100,000 in a few years. You are retrained every five, so 100,000 permit holders divided by 5 equals 20,000 permit holders being trained every year. 20,000 times approximately $100 per class equals roughly $2,000,000 every year in fees associated with your right to defend yourself! $2 million, every year – no wonder some, even in the gun rights movement are so crazy about this bill, think of the money!
This bill incorporates federal disqualifiers into Iowa code when it comes to carrying weapons. This was not the case prior to this bill being passed. Now, if you ever commit a domestic violence misdemeanor, which does not require any physical contact, your gun rights are gone for life. This is a dangerous precedent to set. What other misdemeanors will be grounds for refusal next?
Obviously IGO doesn’t want spousal abusers carrying weapons, but this issue is very dynamic and often convictions are handed out like candy and, especially in light of the fact that convictions can occur without physical contact, this is a dangerous precedent.
This bill allows you to now be denied your gun rights if a mental health staffer thinks you are not stable. This was not the case prior to this bill being passed. While on the surface this sounds fine, consider that according to Gun Owners of America, approximately 200,000 veterans have lost their gun rights because they spoke to a counselor upon returning from military service and that counselor decided that the vet is not fully stable. It would be one thing if their due process rights were ensured – but this bill allows a mental health staffer, a commission, a panel or a judge to declare you unstable without any promise that you can confront witnesses, challenge the facts, or prepare a defense. This is dangerous, and unconstitutional. This bill raises the age on applicants for carry permits from 18 to 21. This was not the case prior to this bill being passed. Yes, we know that not many 18 year olds carry – but some do. Yes, we know that federal law prohibits anyone under 21 from buying a gun. But Iowa code allowed 18 year olds to carry under supervision. What a place to learn how to carry a gun responsibly – carrying Dad’s gun under Dad’s watchful eye. No longer.
This is the bill that did pass the House and Senate last week. The fact that this bill is shall issue means it is a step forward – but only in the current paradigm. You see, REAL Right-to-Carry, Freedom Carry, Constitutional Carry or whatever you call it is catching on all over the country. Vermont and Alaska already have it. Montana has it in all rural areas. Arizona and Wyoming are close to passing this into law as well.
With the anti-gun politicians in Des Moines nervous about re-election, gun rights groups could have banded together and passed REAL Right-to-Carry but some were told by the political bosses that that would never happen. And so it didn’t. The paradigm needs to be changed.
The excellent news however is that Iowa Gun Owners is working on doing just that. With your support we are closer than ever to passing REAL Right-to-Carry here in Iowa. This year, in the final hours of the session our bill came to the Floor in the Senate for a vote. The result was 20 for with 28 against. While we lost, realize that we are only 6 votes short in the Senate (with a vast anti-gun majority) from passing this bill and we had bi-partisan support.
In the House we are short only 5 votes as the bill failed on a close vote last week. (For those who check this online, we were short by 6 votes but that was only because one Republican representative was absent for a while and she would have voted in favor of this.)
Understand what that means. While being told that this was too extreme, that Iowans would never support this measure, and that it was a waste of time to try, Iowa Gun Owners has, with your faithful support, come to within a handful of votes of passing the best pro-gun bill ever in Iowa in a mere 15 months of operation!!!
This is thanks to the constant pressure that our members continue to place upon their elected officials. It is due to your trips to the Capitol. It is due to the unyielding philosophy of the board of Iowa Gun Owners.
But here is the best part: you and I now know who truly supports your 2nd Amendment rights and who is just posturing for political bonus points. If your Representative or Senator was truly pro-gun then he/she should have voted for the REAL Right-to-Carry bill. If they voted for the watered down carry bill but not REAL Right-to-Carry then you know that your elected official is merely paying lip service but will not support the real deal.
November is right around the corner. Between now and then Iowa Gun Owners will be informing thousands and thousands of fellow gun rights activists across the state about the true colors of their elected officials. It will be important that you help out as well.
After the election, when your voices are heard, we can roll into the 2011 session with everyone at the Capitol knowing one thing: we were not satisfied with the 2010 gun bill, we are not going to be bought off so easily, and we want real change.
Folks, we have made tremendous progress in the first 15 months of operation and many politicians in Des Moines have told us this. You will be hearing from some of them in the near future. Thank you for your help in this important fight. Your effort and your asking for what you really wanted is what got us the ‘shall issue’ bill that was passed this year. That’s a start – but we are not done.Aaron Dorr
Iowa Gun Owners
Iowa Gun Owners (IGO) was formed in January of 2009 to combat the oppressive gun laws in the State of Iowa. IGO does not believe that you, as a law abiding citizen, should have to beg permission from the government to be able to defend yourself and your family. That’s why we are working so hard to get a Vermont/Alaska style carry law passed in Iowa. In these states, unless you are a convicted felon or otherwise barred from possessing weapons, you don’t need a permit to carry a gun for self-defense! Join us now! Visit: www.iowagunowners.org