Gun Amendment Language Intentionally Confusing: Vote NO

Prairie Dog

From the Fall 2022 issue of  The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter. The PP is  funded entirely by reader subscription,  available only in hard copy for $15/yr.  Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244. Click here for archived issues.

by Temple Hiatt

Five years ago, I became involved with the gun violence prevention movement because I was tired of the dialogue defining what a veteran looked like. I’m not a white male who idolizes guns. Everything I know about gun safety comes from my military training and service in the Persian Gulf War. I’ve spent the past two years preparing for this November’s battle.

Gun safety is on the ballot in Iowa this year as voters consider a constitutional amendment. Iowans of course have the right to own a gun and we have the U.S.
Constitution that guarantees this. But this amendment doesn’t do what it says it does. It’s funded by out of state special interests who put profits over people. And instead of protecting our rights, this confusing amendment will weaken our current laws, make us less safe and even put law enforcement in danger. This ballot measure will make it even harder for police and other law enforcement officers to enforce the law and do their job.

The language in the ballot is intentionally confusing. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects our right to own a gun. But the “strict scrutiny” called for in this amendment actually means that the Iowa government has limited power to create or enforce commonsense laws that would reduce gun violence, like background checks on all gun sales, and keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.

The ballot will read “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 this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

Strict scrutiny is what makes this proposed amendment very different and very extreme. The gun lobby claims that strict scrutiny amendments “restore” the right to keep and bear arms, when what they really do is threaten public safety laws forcing judges to apply the highest judicial standard when analyzing firearm-related laws. This standard is not required by the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

Only three other states have a similar version of this proposed amendment: Alabama, Louisiana, & Missouri. All three of these states rank in the top five for the highest rates of gun deaths in the US.

After strict scrutiny amendments passed in Louisiana and Missouri, convicted felons challenged state laws that prohibit felons from possessing firearms. At least one
lower court found that Louisiana’s law prohibiting felons from having guns was unconstitutional. Fortunately, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed this ruling.

This extreme approach would invite frivolous litigation, undermine decades of case law in the state courts, and put in jeopardy many moderate, common sense gun laws.
Iowa’s current laws keep felons from having firearms, keep perpetrators of domestic violence from having firearms, keep guns out of schools, and keep restrictions on machine guns and other “offensive weapons.” These are the types of laws, if challenged under this extreme version of the second amendment, might be declared unconstitutional.

This proposed amendment, if passed, would also restrict future legislatures from passing future gun safety legislation, such as reinstating our permitting laws or introducing a red flag law. And that’s the point. Republican Sen. Jason Schultz, who supports the ballot measure, said “the point of this is to restrict future gun control bills.” Republican Rep. Steven Holt stated on the Iowa House floor, “Thank you to the United States Marine Corps and John Waynefor teaching me that… the most effective gun control is a firm grip and a steady hand.”

Make no mistake, the campaign for this amendment is funded by out-of-state
special interests, who want to flood our streets with weapons of war rather than support laws that protect our communities and save lives. The special interest groups behind this ballot measure only care about profits over people and are promoting their guns everywhere agenda, in schools, in grocery stores, and places of worship, just to increase their revenue.

This proposed amendment won’t make Iowa safer. Turn the ballot over and vote NO.

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