Iowa Senate approves firearms bill

DES MOINES — The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature on Tuesday moved closer toward finalizing sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws, approving a bill that would allow firearms on the Capitol grounds and add a stand-your-ground provision.

The Senate voted 33-17 in favor of the bill, an indication of some Democratic support. The House, which passed the measure last month, will be required to vote on it again because of some minor changes in the Senate.

Republican lawmakers have sought revisions to Iowa’s gun laws for years, arguing it would expand Second Amendment rights in the state. Democrats blocked many of those previous efforts, though they’re unable to do so this session. Following the Nov. 8 election, the GOP party has complete control of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The stand-your-ground provision would allow people in Iowa to use deadly force anywhere if they believe such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety. It also would allow a person to use deadly force even if an alternative course of action is available, and an individual could be wrong in his or her estimation of danger.

Republican Sen. Dan Dawson defended the expansion and said the use of any force must be justified.

“All we are trying to say here in this bill is that you have a right to defend yourself not only in specific areas, but any area you have a lawful right to be,” he said.

The Iowa Firearms Coalition, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, has been a vocal supporter of the legislation, while others like Iowans for Gun Safety have spoken against it. Opponents at public legislative meetings warned that the provision would increase gun violence and racial tensions.

At least 24 states have similar laws on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Democratic Sen. Janet Petersen said Iowa’s current law allows a person to use reasonable force, including deadly force, in their home, place of business or employment to protect themselves and others.

“I fall in the camp of those who believe our current gun laws are balanced,” she said. “I believe this legislation will not make Iowa a safer place to live.”

Among provisions in the bill:

-A minor under 14 years of age would be allowed to use a handgun under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian

-A person could carry a concealed pistol or revolver at the Capitol and the surrounding grounds.

-A citizen could sue a local government for enacting a gun-free zone if the person felt adversely affected by an ordinance.

The House is expected to pass the bill again, and it’s expected to head to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk. Ben Hammes, a spokesman for the governor, was noncommittal about whether Branstad supports the measure.


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