Second bill would allow guns in school and employer parking lots

By: - March 1, 2023 6:34 pm

The legislation would make it easier for people to keep guns in their vehicles. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

New legislation that would allow people to have guns and ammunition in their vehicles at schools, colleges, prisons and their workplaces received preliminary approval from an Iowa Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

A similar bill in the Iowa House also was advanced by a subcommittee last week and appears to have broad support for passage.

“There’s no secret that the House and this are in alignment,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, a Schleswig Republican who led the subcommittee meeting Wednesday.

Senate Study Bill 1168 would make it permissible by law to have guns in vehicles in places that might be currently off limits for most people. That includes:

— The parking lots of schools for people who are licensed to carry a firearm who are dropping off or picking up students or employees or who have other business at the schools.

— The parking lots of workplaces, jails and prisons if the gun is hidden inside a locked vehicle.

— The parking lots of universities and community colleges if the gun is hidden. Lawmakers said they might amend that to require the vehicle to be locked.

The bill would also allow retired peace officers to carry weapons on school grounds and would enable schools to authorize someone to have a gun inside a school vehicle that transports students.

Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, opposed the bill because it has too many unrelated provisions. He said he supports people having weapons in their vehicles at workplaces but perhaps not at some of the other places.

“It’s really hard to swallow for those of us that aren’t just complete enthusiasts that everybody should have a gun everywhere,” he said.

Brad Hartkopf, of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, said private employers deserve the choice of whether to allow firearms on their properties.

“I’m sure that we have many members who allow guns on the shop floor or guns in the parking lot,” he said. “And we support their right to do that. We think that’s perfectly fine. But we support it because they’re the ones deciding whether or not they want to do that.”

Carolann Jensen, who represents the Board of Regents and the state’s universities, said it’s problematic to allow weapons in parking lots near the University of Iowa Hospitals, dorms and stadiums.

“I go to a lot of Iowa State games,” she said. “We have just as many people outside in the parking lot that are inside the stadium. So alcohol, firearms, not a good mix.”

The bill has a provision to prevent insurance companies from denying property or casualty coverage to schools based on the allowance of firearms on school property or in school vehicles, which insurance industry representatives opposed.

“When a company is mandated to take on risk … an insurance company may choose to completely exit an entire market,” said Brittany Lumley, of the Iowa Insurance Institute, “and the disruption of this magnitude could have a very profound impact on the stability of the state’s economy.”

The bill also gives immunity to employers against lawsuits that might stem from an altercation with a firearm owned by the employer or employee.

The bill is on the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda for Thursday. It needs committee approval under legislative rules to remain eligible for debate after this week’s “funnel” deadline.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.