DES MOINES — Opponents of legislation that would expand gun rights in Iowa made a last-stand show of political force Tuesday at the Statehouse in hopes of heading off or softening aspects of the bill expected to pass the Senate and land on Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk.
Backers of House File 517 told three members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee the sweeping changes are needed to protect Iowans and their rights.
“The right to fight for self preservation is the most basic of all human rights,” said Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition.
The House-passed bill “guarantees that Iowans will not be deprived of their fundamental rights and their best tools for defense in times of emergency,” he added.
But Bernard Clayton of Cedar Rapids told subcommittee members Iowa’s current gun regulations work and he feared the new provisions would lead to more gun violence.
“I will tell you that this bill is dangerous,” he said. “I know that we are really hellbent on doing this. It’s very dangerous for our state.”
House File 517 includes a stand-your-ground provision that allows the use of deadly force for self-defense anywhere a gun owner can lawfully carry. The bill does not require a person to retreat from a threat or call police before using deadly force to protect themselves, others or property.
Under the bill, new carry applicants would be allowed to complete online training courses to demonstrate knowledge of firearm safety.
“This bill is a great bill for terrorists,” said Chris Robinson, an African American resident of Des Moines. “My terrorist is folks that look like you.”
Des Moines resident Patty McKee expressed concern that stand-your-ground provisions have not been applied equally on racial grounds in states with the law now.
“I think that this is unnecessary. People have the right to protect themselves now in their home and in their car. I think this leaves it wide open for abuse,” she said.
If adopted, the bill would remove age requirements for minors handling handguns under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
Other provisions include removing a penalty for carrying a weapon while under the influence if someone is in his or her own home or business; keeps information on people who possess weapon permits confidential; allows carrying firearms on snowmobiles and ATVs on property that doesn’t belong to the carrier; and legalizes short-barreled rifles and shotguns.