Gun in a man’s holster. (Photo by James Carroll/Getty Images Plus)
Iowans will vote on a constitutional amendment protecting the right to bear arms in 2022.
The proposed language of the constitutional amendment reads: “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.”
Both chambers of the Iowa Legislature voted in favor of the “Keep and Bear Arms Amendment” on Thursday, clearing the way for Iowans to vote on the amendment in 2022. If a majority of Iowans vote in favor, it will be added to the state constitution.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be separated from the right to defend their life, hence the fundamental right to keep and bear arms in our Second Amendment,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, who led House debate.
In order to amend the state constitution, a proposal must be approved by both chambers in two consecutive general assemblies. The Legislature passed the Keep and Bear Arms amendment in both 2018 and 2019, but a bureaucratic error prevented the proposal from appearing on ballots in 2020.
Third time’s the charm.
The Iowa Senate advanced the measure in a 29-18 vote Thursday morning. The House of Representatives passed it 58-41 on Thursday evening.
If Iowans vote in favor of the constitutional amendment, Iowa courts would consider any law which restricts the sale, possession or use of firearms with “strict scrutiny,” meaning those laws must be narrowly tailored to fit a “compelling governmental interest” or be struck down as unconstitutional.
The constitutional amendment also ensures that the right to bear arms is present in the Iowa Constitution should federal legislation ever change.
Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, emphasized the urgency of the measure under the current federal administration. Democrats control the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington D.C.
“When you have a presidential candidate, and a national media and a national grassroots base who are demanding a packing of the courts in order to get whatever they want through, it becomes suddenly pretty relevant,” Schultz said
Democrats in both chambers proposed an amendment to replace the proposed language with the text of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If the purpose of the legislation was to protect the right to bear arms, they argued, why not use the same language as the U.S. Constitution?
Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, responded that, despite current federal law, some groups have tried to infringe on the right to bear arms and some judges have ruled, in his view, against that right.
“This proposal actually enshrines the individual right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa constitution,” Garrett said. “It’s doing the same thing that the framers of the Second Amendment and the federal constitution intended to do, but it protects that right even further because we have learned over the years that not all judges respect the intent of the people that wrote the Second Amendment.”
The amendment failed in the Senate, 18-29, and in the House, 40-58
In the House, Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, suggested an amendment that background check laws would not be subject to strict scrutiny. That amendment also failed, 40-57.
Moments before the legislation passed the House, Holt ended his closing statement: “Thank you to the United States Marine Corps and John Wayne for teaching me that, for law-abiding citizens, the most effective gun control is a firm grip and a steady hand.”
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