Bolkcom To Introduce Common Sense Gun Legislation

joe bolkcomThe GOP and their friend ALEC want to bring to Iowa the infamous “shoot first” or “stand your ground” law, but they’ll have to answer to a new wave of concerns by Iowans who feel the recent loosening of gun regulations went too far.   Today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that Senator Joe Bolkcom will introduce a bill to scale back parts of Iowa’s shall-issue law passed in 2011.  The following is an excerpt.  Click here to read the entire article

An Iowa City lawmaker plans to push for what he calls “common sense” gun control measures, while Statehouse Republicans hope to expand firearm rights.

Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, says he’ll introduce a bill to scale back parts of Iowa’s controversial shall-issue gun permit law. Democrats have criticized the two-year-old law, saying the requirements for carrying a firearm are too lax.

“We’ve had a number of years of pro-gun legislation, a lot of push by the pro-gun folks, and it’s time to try and bring some common sense back to gun laws in Iowa,” Bolkcom said. “These are some tweaks to try and address some concerns people have.”

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said his office saw an uptick in permits issued to carry a weapon two years ago this month after a change in state law compelled sheriffs to issue carry permits to applicants who meet basic requirements and have taken certified training. The law used to say sheriffs “may” issue permits and was changed to read “shall.” Proponents of the change said it standardized the process statewide, while opponents said it eliminated necessary discretion from local officials.

“The big effect has been that there are more people with mental illness getting guns,” Pulkrabek said. “There are more people with criminal records getting guns.”

And after a massacre in Connecticut left 20 school children dead last month, gun control discussions spurred a “huge uptick” in permit requests in Johnson County, Pulkrabek said.

“I’ve talked to some dealers that say people come in and they have no idea what they want, they just know they want to buy a gun because they fear they won’t be able to buy in the near future,” Pulkrabek said. “I have no idea where someone gets that other than the fearmongering.”

Bolkcom’s bill would make for a stricter permitting process. Currently, Iowans can take an online course without ever handling a firearm and still get a permit to carry a weapon. Under the Democrats’ plan, applicants would have to take in-person training and show proficiency on a firing range. The bill also would restrict carry permits to handguns and require permit holders to conceal their weapons, rather than carry openly.

Bolkcom said he worked with Pulkrabek and Iowa Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, who is a deputy sheriff in Marshall County, to come up with those regulations.

“This is, I think, a reasonable set of ideas that can be addressed,” he said. “These ideas come from people in the system that are involved with permit-issuing and have knowledge of gun laws.”

Bolkcom and the rest of the Johnson County statehouse delegation were among few opponents of Iowa’s shall-issue law in 2010. All five Democrats from Iowa City and Coralville voted against the bill, but it still received wide bipartisan support. Then-Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, signed the shall-issue law, earning him the National Rifle Association’s endorsement in his failed re-election bid against Gov. Terry Branstad.

Republicans are moving the other direction. One bill introduced this week would affirm gun rights in the Iowa Constitution and prohibit mandatory licensing, registration, or special taxation on guns or their owners. Another bill is modeled after so-called “stand your ground” laws, which would offer protection for law-abiding citizens who “use reasonable force, including deadly force” against aggressors.

“Shall-issue has been helpful in that it’s let a lot more people get their permits,” said gun rights advocate Robert Fowler, who’s registered to lobby for the Iowa Firearms Coalition. “It’s been a good system. … If you take the training and the time to get a permit to own a gun, you’re not going to misuse it.”

Bolkcom said House Republicans’ pro-gun bills likely won’t get much attention in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Conversely, his bill’s chances in the Republican-controlled House are unclear.

“We’ll have to wait and see how this goes along in the Senate,” Bolkcom said.

Branstad said on Iowa Public Television last week that he doesn’t expect major pro-gun or anti-gun legislation passed this year. He said other issues are more important.

“I’m really focused on the things that I think are most important to grow the Iowa economy and that’s jobs, reforming and reducing the property tax, and reforming education,” he said.


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