Today in the House Public Safety Committee we voted on two gun bills. One was House Joint Resolution 2005 and the other was House File 2114 . Both of these bills passed out of committee — I voted yes on the amended version of both bills –and will be voted on by the full House within the next few weeks.
House Joint Resolution 2005 seeks a “right to bear arms” amendment to the Iowa Constitution, because the Iowa Constitution currently doesn’t contain such a provision. The original bill was problematically broad, and basically did away with any requirement for anyone to obtain a license or a permit to possess or carry a firearm of any kind: “The right of an individual to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms to defend life and liberty and for all other legitimate purposes is fundamental and shall not be infringed upon or denied. Mandatory licensing, registration, or special taxation as a condition of the exercise of this right is prohibited, and any other restriction shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” The bill that we passed was amended so as to simply incorporate language almost identical to the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution: “The rights of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon.” Since the US Supreme Court has already interpreted this particular language as allowing governments to impose some reasonable restrictions on gun rights (e.g., requiring anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon to obtain a concealed carry permit), this language works for me.
The amended bill didn’t work for several of the other Public Safety Committee members — they wanted the more extreme language — but passing that bill out of the House would have been a big waste of time and energy because there is no way the Senate would have taken it up (not that we don’t regularly pass bills out of the House knowing that they’re DOA in the Senate — we sure do — but that doesn’t make it OK). Bottom line, the sponsors of this bill insisted that what they wanted to accomplish was to guarantee that Iowans’ 2nd amendment rights were protected under the Iowa Constitution — this bill does that, using language pulled directly from the 2nd amendment, and it actually has a pretty good chance of becoming law.
House File 2114 is more complicated, and seeks to clarify Iowa Code Section.724.28, the state firearm pre-emption provision. Currently, there is a disagreement as to whether or not local governments (i.e., county and city) have a right to restrict the carrying of weapons on county/city property. HF 2114 adds “carrying” a firearm to the list of things that only the State can regulate, but the bill passed with an amendment that specifically allows local governments to restrict the carrying of guns in a county courthouse, a city hall, and/or a public hospital (and it’s already against state law to carry a firearm on public or private school property, in state parks, or in casinos). A lot of the Public Safety Committee members would have preferred that the bill pass without the amendment, but realistically, that bill would also have been DOA in the Senate — so this was a reasonable compromise on a difficult issue, and again, it might well become law. Unless the majority party strips out the amendment when they run the bill in the full House, in which case local governments could not legally restrict guns in courthouses, or city halls, or hospitals — and which would kill the bill. So we’ll see.
Oh, and the House also passed a commercial property tax reduction bill that is either the best bill ever or the worst bill ever (depending on whether you’re Wal Mart as opposed to not Wal Mart). I voted no, because it sure looks to me like the bill would wreak financial havoc on local governments and school districts, and would definitely lead to an increase in residential property taxes. I assume that the Senate’s bill and the House’s bill will end up in a conference committee and that sometime prior to the end of session an agreement will be reached that will hopefully benefit the majority of Iowans, on a short and long term basis. Here’s a link to a DM Register article on the bill …
This evening at the Capital there is a big fancy dinner reception for Xi Jinping, China’s vice president (and future president, apparently). Should be interesting.