Coalition launches campaign against pro-gun amendment

By: - June 16, 2022 3:07 pm

An Iowa organization is launching a campaign hoping to defeat a proposed gun rights amendment on the November election ballot. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Gun safety advocates launched a campaign Thursday to rally Iowans to defeat a constitutional amendment appearing on the state’s November ballot that would make it more difficult to restrict the purchase and ownership of firearms.

Advocates formed a coalition, Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws, to push back against the “Keep and Bear Arms Amendment.”

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.”

Any legal restriction of the right to firearms would face a higher legal standard under the amendment. Laws restricting the sale, use and possession of firearms would need to fit a “compelling governmental interest” or be struck down.

Republican advocates of the amendment said it was needed to protect Second Amendment rights from federal infringement and judicial overreach.

“This proposal actually enshrines the individual right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa constitution,” Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, said during Senate debate last year. “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.”

Luana Nelson Brown, the executive director of Coalition for Collective Change, said the amendment makes Iowans less safe by prohibiting “reasonable safety measures” like requiring firearm safety training or a license to carry. Members of the new coalition said their goal is to raise awareness and persuade more Iowans to vote against the proposal.

A majority vote on the amendment in November is the final step for the amendment to become a part of the state constitution. To amend the state constitution, an identical resolution must be approved by two consecutive General Assemblies. It originally passed in both 2018 and 2019, but a mistake by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office kept it from appearing on the 2020 ballot.

In 2022, it’s finally time for voters to weigh in. While members of the new coalition said Iowa gun owners and dealers already have issues with the amendment, their goal is to raise awareness and convince more Iowans to vote against the proposal.

Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa, said recent shootings keep the need for gun safety measures fresh in mind.

There have been two shootings in Iowa community spaces this past month. A man shot and killed two Iowa State students and himself in Ames, and a 16-year-old student died in a shooting outside Des Moines’ East High School.

Events close to home, combined with national attention on the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting show the need for more, not less restrictions on firearm access, Sinovic argued.

“I hope there are no more mass shootings or across the country,” he said. “And we hope that people vote against this amendment to keep our communities safe.”

Sinovic also criticized measures like Gov. Kim Reynolds’ investment in school safety as a stopgap measure to preventing gun violence.

Earlier this week, the governor announced she would invest $100 million in federal funds toward school security and mental health measures. Part of the funding went toward the creation of Iowa’s School Safety Bureau, which will work with schools and local law enforcement on violence prevention and emergency responses.

“The debate on guns will continue, but until we consider the lethal weapon in these events is the person who picks up the gun and turns it against another, we risk overlooking other solutions that directly address the cause of this violence and work to reverse its course,” Reynolds said Monday.

Sinovic said the plan does “absolutely nothing” to address the underlying issue of gun safety.

The coalition plans to work with partner organizations around the state to raise awareness about the amendment. The organization’s website has downloadable presentations and fliers about the amendment, which they encouraged voters to share.

Potential advertising would come in fall, Sinovic said. People interested in supporting the movement can donate to Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws online or by mail.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.