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Iowa senators consider allowing guns on school, business properties

Employers who don’t want guns on their property may not have a choice under a new bill that moved forward in the Iowa Senate on Thursday. It would require employers to allow permit-carrying employees to keep a concealed weapon in their locked vehicles.

The bill states that an employer cannot ban a permit-carrying employee from “carrying, transporting, or possessing a firearm or ammunition,” if the firearm is concealed inside of a locked vehicle. It also exempts employers and property owners from damage claims related to the gun, according to Senate File 459.

“None of these bills are an additional danger to the people of Iowa,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig. “They’re aimed at giving the law-abiding citizens their rights.”

Beyond workplaces, legislators also moved Senate File 116 forward, which allows a person to have a concealed firearm on school grounds in a locked vehicle. Restrictions in the bill require that someone is either picking up or dropping off a person or a package at the school.

Iowa law currently does not allow any firearms on school property, unless the person is an officer or in the military and the weapon pertains to their work.

While the bills are separate, they address similar issues. Schultz said some parents may want to keep a firearm on them when they drop their children off at school and then drive straight to work.

Both bills were introduced in the Iowa Legislature in 2019.

Representatives of business groups, churches and state universities questioned the proposed workplace law, including what it means for college campuses who employ students and religious institutions that may not want firearms on their properties.

As the bill stands, Schultz said it includes both college campuses and religious institutions.

Brad Hartkopf, director of public policy for the Iowa Association of Business Industry, said business owners expressed concerns that the bill infringes on their rights.

“It prohibits their private property rights,” Hartkopf said.

Paula Blake, a retired teacher who lives in Johnston, said allowing guns on school grounds is a matter of convenience. But she said if firearms are at schools, teachers and school staff are inconvenienced by worrying about the presence of weapons and the potential violence that could occur.

“Why can’t we keep them away from children?” Blake said. “Why is it not a problem or inconvenience for the school?”

Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said it’s not permit-carrying gun owners that schools should feel worried about.

“Your concerns do not come from people with concealed weapons permits,” Sinclair said. “It concerns criminals.”

Both bills passed through their subcommittees. They need approval from the full committees before being considered on the Senate floor.