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A legislative forum held Saturday saw the attending area legislators asked multiple times about new gun laws, especially one that would allow "strict scrutiny" in the state.

The bill would amend the state's constitution to add "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of the right shall be subject to strict scrutiny."

The amendment would require being passed in two successive legislative sessions before it goes to the public for approval.

Multiple questions were asked of legislators on if and why they supported the proposed constitutional amendment. 

"It has cost other states a lot of money, so I was thinking about evidence-based considerations, and I'm nervous about these constitutional amendments that could eliminate laws like background checks," Davenport resident Stella Herzig said.

Rep. Monica Kurth, who is on the Public Safety Committee in the Iowa House, told the crowd she would not support it. "The adding of strict scrutiny makes the protection on the Second Amendment greater than the Constitution," she said, saying it would also possibly or probably eliminate background checks. "It's a bad direction to go in, [I'm] very concerned about it, and I voted against it."

Others were more supportive. "I support the bill, as I did last year," Rep. Ross Paustian told the crowd. "It's in our U.S. Constitution, and I think it just makes common sense."

When asked about the possible extra costs, Paustian said he didn't know what Herzig meant.

Allison Ambrose said she was concerned about that answer, asking how legislators determine their decisions based on evidence from other states as well as what their constituents want. "I believe I heard one person say they were supportive of the Second Amendment. Well, so did the person who asked the question," she said.

Paustian said he had received multiple contacts from constituents in support of the bill.

Sen. Mark Lofgren said on background research, there's a number of avenues they look at. "I've got this Green Alert bill I'm working on that Wisconsin did, so I called them in Wisconsin and asked them 'How's it going with the bill that passed last year?' And as far as our constituents, obviously we watch our emails and we keep track of that," he said. "So it's kind of a combination." 

Rep. Cindy Winckler said she kept track of what other states do, and strict scrutiny would place the rights of the Second Amendment above everything else in Iowa's Constitution. "So the costs are really undoing all of the laws in the state that are dealing with background checks or other gun safety legislation that they have," she said, saying she hadn't supported it last year because of it, though she said she supported the Second Amendment.

Not all of the feedback was negative. There was some applause for Sen. Chris Cournoyer after she said that they needed to focus on mental health. "All of the gun laws in the world (are) not going to stop someone from using a gun to kill people," she said, saying Iowa should focus on the root cause.

Legislators also discussed the potential change that would give Gov. Kim Reynolds more power in appointing judges. Rep. Gary Mohr broke with his party in saying he wasn't ready to support the bill. "My party by and large supports this change, I'm not there yet," he said. "I'm not convinced as to why, what we're fixing that's broken."

"We're not going to where judges are running for office, we're not going to like the federal level where the president picks or the governor picks straight out from whoever they want," Sen. Roby Smith said. "I am researching it, I am listening to constituents... I'm taking a look at this, and we'll see what we hear from people." 

The forum also took a question on U.S. Rep. Steve King's controversial remarks and what they would do to stand up to rhetoric. "I think what we're talking about when we're talking about diversity and Steve King, there's two kind of different things," Rep. Phyllis Thede said. "Depending on where you come from, where you live, you may not be around people of color at all... We have some work in what we have to do, how we make this possible for everyone, how do we make diversity a part of everyday life?"

While that's up to the individual, Thede said, she said she hoped all people are open to people of color. "But diversity is one that is part of our system, the interstate has allowed us to move from here to there, and so I think we need to be mindful of that."

Thede also drew applause later when she said she would want to have her and Steve King in a room for a conversation. "What I mean by that is we would sit down and we would have a coming-to-Jesus meeting, and I think that's the only way that we could make it happen," she said. "When you come out of the room, I guarantee he will be a changed man." 

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