NRA Bad for Iowa

NRA Pushing Bad Bill in Iowa

*** Update: A revised proposal from NRA has surfaced which is somewhat better than the proposal discussed in this article, but which still has some serious flaws.  The new proposal and NRA’s description will be linked at the bottom of this article and hilights of changes will be noted parenthetically within the article at the applicable sections. ***

It’s been a long time since we have had serious issues with NRA actions, but their proposed concealed carry legislation for Iowa is simply bad and we’re taking exception.

Last year two state organizations, Iowa Carry and Iowa Gun Owners, banged heads with competing legislation and competing strategies. Iowa Carry was backing a “shall issue” bill which included mandatory training requirements and several other concessions. Iowa Gun Owners was pushing an Alaska-style bill which removed restrictions on concealed carry and offered an optional permit system for the sake of reciprocity.

The Alaska bill had 25 cosponsors among the 100 members of the Iowa House and failed to pass by just one vote ending in a 49 – 49 tie in the final minutes of the legislative session. (Note: This was not a straight up or down vote, but a procedural vote on whether to suspend the rules to allow the Alaska-style bill language to be amended onto a must-pass bill.  It still demonstrates a surprising level of support.)

After such an impressive showing, one would expect advocates to unite around the Alaska-style bill for this legislative session with an eye towards either passing a very good bill, or forcing a clear record vote on such a bill and using that vote against opponents in the next General Election. Instead, after ignoring the state for decades, NRA has decided to ride their white horse into Iowa to save the day by amending the already weak Iowa Carry bill to make it not only weaker, but to actually include some provisions which are worse than existing law – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Under the NRA proposal, not only would anyone ever convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor be barred from concealed carry, anyone ever arrested on such a charge would be barred. The proposal also bars anyone with “a written finding by any agency of a state or the United States sustaining an allegation of abuse against another person,” leaving the door open for a ban on concealed carry for a parent who spanks their child or a person victimized by false accusations from a former spouse or intimate. The NRA says that a “paper trail” demonstrating a history of violence or abuse is enough. A judge and jury – due process – are just superfluous. This portion is supposed to improve on the current laws provision that bars a permit from anyone with a “history of violence.” The language about violent misdemeanors addresses this, but even that raises questions. Many people have been cited at some point for involvement in a fist-fight or some such petty up-scuttle. Is it reasonable to bar anyone so cited from the ability to defend themselves? (Note: This provision was retained unchanged in the newer version of the proposal.)

NRA’s bill also makes going “armed with a firearm while under the influence of alcohol” an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison. If legislators subsequently added just one day to the punishment guidelines for an aggravated misdemeanor, anyone convicted under this law would not only lose their right to carry, they would lose all of their gun rights for the rest of their lives. NRA claims that this provision fixes a problem with the existing law which bars “alcoholics” from receiving a permit to carry. Since the clinical definition of an alcoholic can include “recovering alcoholics” who haven’t had a drink in decades, simply barring alcoholics is a problem, but NRA’s solution creates a much worse problem. Anyone who enjoys an occasional beer and who regularly carries understands the catch-22 such a law can create – especially when “under the influence is left undefined. The NRA “fix” also recreates the exact same problem it’s fixing by creating a blanket prohibition for anyone addicted to a controlled substance. Just as with alcohol, there are many people who no longer use drugs, but who stand up every week and say “Hi, I’m Dave and I’m an addict.” Some of these folks are police officers who would lose their jobs if such language was enforced.  (Note: These provisions were tweaked in the newer proposal, downgrading the “possession under the influence” charge to a simple miedemeanor and making some exceptions for someone on their own property, but it remains a trip-wire for anyone who ever consumes alcohol.  The issue of recovering addicts was not addressed.)

Rather than creating new regulations which could be used to harass and persecute gun owners, NRA should be looking for ways to make it easier and safer for responsible citizens to exercise their right to arms. The fact is that criminals and the dangerously irresponsible will carry and misuse guns regardless of what the law says so the first priority must always be protecting the rights of the responsible and law-abiding.

In what they claim is an effort to bring the Iowa Code into alignment with federal law and definitions, the NRA includes a long list of disqualifiers which echoes the federal “prohibited persons” language. If NRA wants harmony with federal law, why not simply state that no one prohibited from firearms possession under federal law may be issued a concealed weapons permit? That way, if federal law improves, Iowa law would be similarly improved. Restating federal law – and expanding upon its restrictions – is not in the best interest of Iowans. (Note: Retained in the newer proposal.)

Even though decades of data prove that mandatory training does nothing to reduce accidents, mistakes, or criminal activity among permit holders, the NRA bill retains the current Iowa training requirements with only minor modifications expanding the options for individuals and agencies offering the training. While professional training is absolutely a good idea, government mandated training is an unwarranted attempt to legislate personal responsibility and should always be opposed. (Note: This section was extensively rewritten in the newer proposal and now reflects a much less onerous training requirement.  While we remain opposed to mandatory training, the newer language is an improvement.)

On another point NRA doesn’t just support the status quo, their bill takes three steps backward. Current Iowa law states that any otherwise qualified person who has attained the age of 18 years is eligible for a concealed weapons permit, but NRA wants to exclude 18, 19, and 20-year olds and move the minimum age up to 21. No reason is given for this change, but it is likely to be a matter of reciprocity. Since many other states have a 21-year minimum standard, raising Iowa’s requirement to 21 increases the likelihood of other states recognizing Iowa permits. If the additional reciprocity is really that important, 18 to 21-year olds could be offered a “restricted permit” which was only valid in Iowa or other states which choose to recognize it. Simply cutting this group out of the process for no other demonstrable reason is just wrong. (Note: This provision was retained in the newer proposal.)

On the subject of reciprocity, the NRA bill sums it up in a single paragraph which limits the possibility of reciprocity to only those states whose restrictions “meet or exceed” the Iowa regulations. It goes on to give the Secretary of State full discretion on whether to then grant reciprocity to these states. While the NRA bill shifts Iowa’s permitting process from “may issue” to “shall issue,” when it comes to reciprocity, NRA says the Secretary of State “may” enter into such agreements. (Note: This language was retained in the newer proposal.)

Along with the “may issue” problem that this bill is supposed to fix, Iowa has a much larger problem which this bill completely ignores. Iowa law currently requires anyone wishing to acquire a handgun to first get an annual permit. The “Permit to Acquire a Revolver or Pistol” requires that applicants meet basically the same standards as those for a permit to carry a weapon and NRA makes most of the same tweaks to those definitions without making any effort to mitigate or repeal the permit to purchase provision. (Note: This language, as well as the language pertaining to the NICS Improvement Act (below,) remain unchanged in the newer proposal.)

On top of everything else, the NRA bill adds a bunch of new language to bring Iowa into compliance with last years controversial “NICS Improvement Act.”

All in all, what the NRA is doing with this bill is taking Iowa’s complicated, convoluted, and misguided laws regarding the acquisition and carry of weapons, changing the word “may” to the word “shall” and making other tweaks and modifications which, in the big picture, make the laws more restrictive, intrusive, and unconstitutional than they already were – and they’re doing so in total disregard for the desires of Iowa gun owners, the principles of the Second Amendment, and the proven safety records of many other states. They are also bringing this seriously flawed bill forward at a time when the Iowa legislature is primed to pass good, responsible, rights protecting legislation. By offering this bill, NRA is setting the bar so low that even most of their most ardent opponents can support it while their most ardent supporters are left wondering just what the Hell is going on.

It is incomprehensible that Iowa’s atrocious laws were completely ignored by NRA while a prominent Iowa political figure, Kayne Robinson, served for years on the NRA Board of Directors including an unprecedented five years as First Vice-President and then two years as President of the NRA. That Iowa’s laws continued to be ignored even when a member of the legislature, Clel Baudler, was serving multiple terms as a member of the NRA board of Directors and Robinson moved into the position of Executive Director of General Operations at NRA. Only now, after the grass roots of Iowa have finally awakened and started making effective strides toward reform of their laws, does NRA decide to put their formidable clout into the fight – not in support of the local grass roots, but in place of them. While NRA is working with Iowa Carry in this effort, they are doing so as the lead dog, dictating terms and telling the locals what to do. The arrogance of this belated rescue effort might be excused if NRA were jumping in with a solid, principled bill, but there is simply no excuse for them swooping in with such a load of horse manure.

If this is the best NRA and their Legislative Liaison for Iowa, Chris Rager, can come up with, the GunVoters of Iowa would do well to bluntly tell them to go rescue someone else.

(Note: Kayne Robinson has been on the oposite side of several internal NRA upscuttles with the Knoxes, but there is no personal animosity against him.  I have met Clel Baudler and like him.  Serving in the legislature is not easy and the job comes with a “Kick Me” sign.  I’m sure Clel appreciates my position.  Again, nothing personal.  I don’t know Chris Rager, but I imagine we would have much in common.  I think he’s off base in this case and I hope he will work with me or other “fundamentalists” to keep improving his proposal until it is something we can all get behind and support.  — JK)

Click here to see the current law with NRA’s Newer Proposed Changes (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Click here to read NRA’s memo explaining their Newer amendments (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

To see the current Iowa law with NRA’s original proposed changes marked up, click here.

To see an NRA memo explaining their reasoning for the changes they wish to make in the original proposal, click here.