2015 Legislative Session Follow-Up From the President


IFC LogoAs I write this, thousands of people have viewed and are viewing IFC’s last Facebook post from yesterday, in which I addressed you all about the final and failed status of our legislative efforts this year. The number of people viewing it is still rising dramatically at this very moment (edit: in the time it took me to write this, another 1,000 people read it). Understandably, my unfortunate news has not only generated a great deal of traffic, but a lot of discussion too. In the comments on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet, I’ve noticed a few reoccurring issues being raised by a handful of upset folks that I believe need to be addressed:

“We need to have recall elections!” — Some of you are asking for recall elections for Senators Gronstal, Sodders, etc. For better or worse, Iowa does not have a recall election provision. So, recall elections are not an option.

“Give us a list of who voted against the bill!” — Many of you want to know who voted against your legislation. The problem is, nobody got to vote either for or against it in the Senate. The Senate Democrat leadership blocked the bill from going to the floor. It only passed in an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House, and was championed multiple times by the House Republican leadership.

“Let’s un-elect Gronstal!” — Quite a few of you are talking about making sure Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal doesn’t get re-elected. The unfortunate political reality is that Senator Gronstal will probably be a senator for his district as long as he wants to be. He has firm majorities, and probably hasn’t been threatened in an election since he began his legislative career. The numbers are simply greatly in his favor. Mike Gronstal is arguably the most talented politician in Des Moines, and probably raises and donates more money for and to other Democrats than any other single man in the state, too.

I say none of that because I wish to discourage anyone. I say it because there’s an easier way to destroy Gronstal’s house of cards: We simply need to flip the Senate to a Republican majority. If we do that, Majority Leader Gronstal gets to go sit in the back of the room and finish his legislative career as regular ol’ Senator Gronstal.  Without his majority, he will no longer have any say in what bills get run or who chairs committees, and therefore cannot dictate, either single-handedly or with the assistance of his chosen leadership, the fate of common sense pro-Second Amendment legislation.

In short, you don’t need to go after Senator Gronstal; that’s just a waste of time and money. You merely need to attack his majority, which is much easier and in 2016, stands a much higher chance of success. The Democrats have 5 or 6 very vulnerable districts they have to defend next year. The time has never been better to flip the Iowa Senate, and give the majority to the people who very much would love to see our bills finally make it to the floor of the Senate and get the passing votes they deserve.

0120151445d“The Republicans were weak and screwed us!” — This is ridiculous, radical, partisan B.S. All the Republicans in the House voted for our bill. THREE TIMES. The House Republican leadership made those three votes happen, and Speaker Kraig Paulsen, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, and Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl fought tooth and nail to try to convince the Senate Democrat leadership to vote on the bill or its provisions.  Here’s a photo of Rep. Matt Windschitl speaking with Richard Rogers, John Reed and myself (I’m behind the camera).

And then there’s the Senate…Except for a couple senators who bought into the nonsense of a money grubbing organization that calls itself a “gun rights group,” every Republican senator supported our bill. As the minority party in the Senate, the Senate Republicans are powerless to get bills they want to the floor, nor can they unilaterally amend legislation. Their hands are tied, and there’s no committee wrangling, procedural maneuver or vote they can do to make it happen. The Senate Republicans are literally stuck with the whims of whatever the Senate Democrat leadership allows them to do.

For those of you who expected the House Republicans and the House Republican leadership to “stand up to” and stonewall the Senate Democrat leadership by refusing to vote for the Standings bill or adjourn until they passed the gun bill, let’s get real.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but the Second Amendment isn’t the only issue legislators have to deal with in any given session.  Furthermore, these people have lives and families and real jobs to attend to as well.  If they’re not going to keep the session going until July or September for the budget, which is always the biggest fight of the year, by what reasoning do you expect them to do so for gun bills?  Any belief otherwise is just detached from reality.  As a lobbying organization, we must deal with what is, not some fantasy.

IMG_2823“The Iowa Legislature sucks!” — The Iowa Legislature does not suck, even if you are mad about what happened. Let me be absolutely clear on this point: The House passed the omnibus bill or its provisions THREE TIMES, in huge bipartisan majorities. The House Republican leadership were tireless champions of the bill, and they worked very hard behind the scenes, trying to convince the Senate Democrat leadership to take the bill up, or pass it in the Standings bill. You all owe the House and the House Republican leadership a hearty thanks, not your scorn.  In the photo to the right, Richard Rogers and I are just leaving Speaker Kraig Paulsen’s office after a meeting with him, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, and Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl, where we met IFC activist Nathan Gibson and his daughters in the hallway.

Furthermore, most of the Republican Senators (except the select few who bought the garbage fed to them by an unscrupulous “gun rights” organization) supported the bill, as did most of the Senate Democrats. In fact, it was a Senate Democrat who was fighting the hardest on the last day, trying desperately to get his leadership to vote for the omnibus bill’s provisions. I would absolutely love to tell you this champion’s name, but I can’t because their efforts were behind the scenes and I don’t want to cause trouble for them in their caucus.

So no, the Iowa Legislature does not suck. The Iowa Senate Democrat leadership sucks. Big difference. It behooves us as freedom loving, right thinking Americans to be mad at the right people for the right things. It is our ethical duty to be right, stay right, and do right. So save your anger for those who actually deserve it: the Iowa Senate Democrat leadership.

“All-or-nothing got us nothing! I told you so!” — I’ve seen a few people say this, claiming we should have taken the “suppressor only” bill instead of standing firm on the omnibus bill. This one really upsets me because, with all due respect, it’s ignorant and reveals a gross lack of understanding of the events in question. There is a healthy portion of “you had to be there” to understand why we did what we did because we’re dealing with the intricacies of human interaction, the culmination of dozens of meetings and hundreds of conversations, but I’ll do my best to explain the highlights briefly.

First, you must understand that the omnibus bill failed to be brought to the floor not because anyone thought it was bad policy; as I said above, most legislators thought it was good policy.  Rather, the omnibus bill failed to be brought to the floor because the Senate Democrat leadership believe passing the bill will benefit them and their caucus more if they do it next year, in 2016. Why? Because it’s an election year. You see, if the Senate Democrat leadership brings up a pro-gun bill for the Democrat caucus to vote for next year, they can campaign on that all summer long, right up to November. They hope you’ll take the bone you’re thrown, and forget all about their obstructionism for the last many years.

The omnibus bill ultimately failed because of political gamesmanship and election year chess, and no other reason.  It had zero to do with the “suppressor only” bill.

Second, it was the Senate Democrat leadership who first signaled their desire to work with us to pass a bill with many common sense, pro-Second Amendment provisions. We would have submitted legislation asking for the things in the omnibus bill anyway, but they wanted the bill. So we all got together–IFC, the Senate Democrat leadership, the House Republican leadership, the NRA, and many law enforcement organizations–and we wrote the omnibus bill. It was written as an omnibus bill for convenience, because everybody–literally everybody–was supporting the provisions, not because we were being greedy or egotistical, or whatever other accusations have been thrown at us by the ignorant few in the last day.

Then, in the Senate Judiciary Committee sub-committee that was handling the bill, the Democrat leadership there wrote a new bill unbeknownst to us or anyone else: the “suppressors only” bill.  This was a new bill that had zero input from anyone other than the Senate Democrat leadership.  The Senate Judiciary sub-committee passed the omnibus bill we all worked on together, then not a minute later they brought the suppressors only bill to the table and voted for that too. It was the first sign that the Senate Democrat leadership had no intention of bringing the omnibus bill up to the floor for a vote, let alone pass it.  We asked why this suppressors only bill was suddenly created, and the Senate Democrat leadership told us, “just in case.”  After we had a chance to examine this new suppressors only bill shortly after this sub-committee meeting, we discovered that the Senate Democrat leadership didn’t simply take the suppressor language out of the omnibus bill to make a new bill, they had changed the suppressor language to something unfavorable and something we could not support.

I repeat: The “suppressor only” bill was NOT our language cut from the omnibus bill!  It was new language, written by the Senate Democrat leadership without our or anyone else’s input, and it was totally unacceptable.  Period.  Full stop.  End of story.

IMAG3716Following this unexpected maneuver, several restrictive and anti-gun amendments were proposed for the omnibus bill. In this photograph to the right, you can see Richard Rogers, John Reed and myself speaking with Senator Steve Sodders (whose back is to the camera), and arguing against the then latest round of nonsense amendments, which you can see Richard flipping through there.  The Senate Democrat leadership tried this tactic several times, proposing one stupid amendment after another. But we held firm. We had all negotiated and written the bill together in good faith, the Senate Democrats included, and we all arrived at the omnibus bill together. That was the bill we were supporting. We told them we weren’t going to go back and re-negotiate the bill again and again and again, as they tried to take away more, and more, and more. The House Republican leadership sent the same message: The omnibus bill was the bill we all wrote together, and we’re sticking to it.

The Senate Democrat leadership let the omnibus bill languish after discovering that we weren’t taking the bait, and so they voted for their crappy suppressors only bill instead, believing that would be enough to buy us off and shut us up. But our message didn’t change: We all negotiated the omnibus bill together in good faith, and we weren’t going to settle for anything less–especially not a poorly written suppressor bill!  This junk suppressor only bill left the Senate and went to the House, where they amended the omnibus bill language back into the suppressors only bill–the same language the Senate Democrat leadership helped write!–and sent it back to the Senate. And that’s where it died.

In case you missed it, let me highlight the important bit there: The Senate Democrat leadership tried to buy us off with the “suppressor only” bill, which contained unfavorable language we could not support, after previously coming to us and asking us to work with them to write the omnibus bill.  They tried to re-negotiate.  They wrote a bad bill.  They tried to change the game while it was being played.  They screwed the bill up, not us.

Sure, we could have gotten suppressors, but the law would have been unfavorable, and at what cost to our credibility as a lobbying organization? What does it do for our reputation if we take whatever scraps they decide to throw us? Do you think we’d be taken as seriously as we are if we went in there telling them we wanted X, Y, Z, and A, then just rolled over and took B right after the very same Senate Democrat leaders told us they supported the whole bill? Do you think all these political games were played without the knowledge and support, and perhaps even direction, of the Senate Democrat leadership? Should we have kowtowed to that, just to get the junk scraps they think we should get?  Is that how little your rights are worth to you?

We called their bluff because it was the right thing to do. We won’t be bought off, certainly not with a junk bill we’d spend the next six years trying to fix, and I won’t apologize for not taking the bribe just because it would be expedient to do so.

So in conclusion, two things:

Sodders-Facebook1) We’re going to bring the omnibus bill or its provisions back next year, including suppressors, and mark my words, the Senate Democrat leadership will go along with it in order to curry favor with pro-gun Democrats and Republicans for their upcoming elections next November. Check out the screen shot of Senator Sodders’ Facebook page on the right to see for yourself.  We will, of course, take the pro-Second Amendment provisions they pass, no matter what their reasons.  But we won’t be fooled into thinking they’re doing it for any reason other than to play their election chess game.  Will you be fooled come November?

For those of you who are mad that we didn’t bow down, kiss the Senate Democrat leadership’s feet and profusely thank them for throwing us their garbage suppressor bone this session, will you stay home on election day next year after we get suppressors next session?  I hope not.  We’re playing the long game here at IFC.  So why don’t you join us and help pull some of the weight, instead of Monday morning quaterbacking a game you weren’t present for?  I’d love to see all of you standing next to us on the front lines next year, not behind us.

2) The only way to end this constant cycle of abuse and neglect, and prevent being used by the Senate Democrat leadership for their partisan gain in the future, is to flip the Senate to a Republican majority. Full stop, end of story.  IFC is a non-partisan organization and we’ll work with anyone who will work with us.  But the Senate Democrat leadership isn’t working with us at all, so remove the Democrat control over the Senate, and you end the rule of Mike Gronstal and the impasse of Second Amendment issues in Iowa.  That’s just all there is to it.

Remember our state motto: Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain!  In the meantime, I’ll see you on the range and on front lines next year.

Fighting for your Second Amendment rights in Iowa,
Barry B. Snell
President, Iowa Firearms Coalition

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  1. Brian says:

    If it’s all but assured it’s (omnibus) going to pass next year then you should do something to poke the democrats in the eye. Put language in the bill making NFA weapons legal in Iowa. Short barrel rifles, shotguns, and select fire weapons.

  2. michael moe says:

    1, Now is the time to have all the republicans in the Iowa house and senate including the republican leadership start to fight by going after every vulnerable democrat in the senate and the house too!
    2. Change the rules so neither party can stop a bill that has passed from coming to the senate floor for a vote!
    3. There are other ways but I won’t go there, I’ll leave that up to the democrats. One thing I would have done is hold up the tax hike on gas until the gun bill came to the senate floor for a vote!

  3. Tom says:

    I also was very disappointed and ready give up on next year till I read the follow up letter from the President, now I can’t wait till next year and hammer them again with e-mails and phone calls until we win. The information he give us shows great leadership in this organization. I will be sure to donate funds for next years fight.
    Thank you Mr. Snell for all of your hard work

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