Divided Senate Subcommittee Advances Gun Bill

After an hour of public testimony from supporters and opponents, a subcommittee advanced an omnibus gun bill (HF 517) to the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 2-1 vote. Senators Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs) and Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) supported the bill, which Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) opposed – while raising multiple questions about its meaning and consequences.


The Des Moines Register reported on the competing testimony. Bill proponents Included a father and two young daughters, who have lobbied for removing Iowa’s minimum age of 14 for possessing a pistol or revolver. Others stressed the primacy of the rights to bear arms and to act in self-defense, with one speaker maintaining that “self-defense is the most basic of human rights.”


Opponents argued the bill would increase the risk of deaths and injuries because of expanded “stand your ground” rights, more gun carrying in public spaces, and removal of the 14-year-old minimum age limit. Several speakers urged legislators to err on the side of public safety in balancing competing rights.


Representing Iowa-AAP, Steve Scott warned in his testimony that removing the 14-year minimum age would lead to more accidental injuries and deaths. He cited an October 2016 study by the Associated Press and USA Today finding at least one child being accidentally killed by a firearm every two days from January 1 to June 30, 2016.


While recognizing many parents will provide the hands-on supervision required by HF 517, Scott insisted others will not. He cited the fatal consequences of parental failure to protect children in Iowa Child Death Review Team’s most recent report. The report found dozens of preventable child deaths resulting from unsupervised swimming, unsafe sleep positions, failure to use car seats, absence of smoke alarms, and unsecured firearms. Scott noted that the difficulty for anyone in supervising children handling firearms due to their physical and emotional immaturity, the inherent danger of firearms, and potential harm during only a few distracted seconds.


The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on HF 517 on Thursday, March 16 at 11 a.m.


Update: Both chambers approved the gun bill, which the Governor signed on April 13. 

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