Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment Advances!

HJR-3 has advanced from the House subcommittee 2-1 with no language changes. We’ll keep you posted as the amendment to recognize the right of Iowans to keep and bear arms advances.

Below is the testimony presented by IFC lobbyist Richard Rogers.

Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) has registered For HJR3 and most strongly urges its passage.

Nearly every living organism displays an instinct for self-preservation. Certainly, all human beings have the desire, the need, and the right to defend themselves, their families and their communities. Their ability to do so effectively is often dependent upon having tools – arms – available for that purpose. In the past, those tools may have been a stick, a blade or a bow. In the modern era, the most effective tool for this purpose is typically a defensive firearm. The right to keep and bear arms arises directly from the universally acknowledged right of self-defense. This right to bear arms has long been recognized in English and American law and its protection was enshrined in our national Constitution as the Second Amendment with the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

The United States Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, has long recognized that this right is a fundamental right that pre-existed the Constitution and is not “… in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed…” (United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, 553 (1876)).

This fundamental, individual right is so important that forty-four state constitutions also have specific protections for it. California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, and, unfortunately, Iowa – are the six outliers that have failed in this regard. HJR3 is intended to correct this grave oversight. This simple amendment will ensure that these basic rights are protected for future generations and will not be affected by shifting and transitory political winds. Our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms for all legitimate purposes.

This committee will undoubtedly hear testimony that opinion polls show Iowans do not support the adoption of this amendment. Of course, it is easy for an agenda driven organization to fund a “poll” that asks skewed or misleading questions of a public not yet well informed on the issue and that, unsurprisingly, delivers the desired result. However, the only poll results that really matter are of an actual election by the voters of Iowa.

Furthermore, consider this: All human beings possess certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. It is in order to realize and safeguard these rights that we institute government, to which each citizen assigns a portion of his inherent powers. (For a government has no just power that does not first belong to the people.) The American system of government is a representative republic, not a pure democracy. The fundamental rights of the people are not subject to just revocation by majority rule.

This amendment will not (and cannot) grant any right that we the people do not already possess. But it can offer needed protections for that right. The intent of this amendment is not to upend Iowa’s laws regarding weapons, but to prevent the potential for a future imposition of draconian restrictions and the consequent denial of our basic human rights.

Some who oppose this amendment wish to relegate this fundamental, individual right to the status of a highly regulated privilege, to be granted or denied at the whim of legislators, or even bureaucrats. It is not that and we must never allow it to become that!

Objections have been raised to the detailed language of this amendment and particularly to its demand that potential infringements upon this right be subjected to “strict scrutiny” by the courts. This amendment was drafted in this manner out of necessity, as we have seen a century or more of legalistic attempts to circumvent or obfuscate the clear, historically supportable meaning of the Second Amendment. With this amendment, Iowa would affirm and recognize this right to be a fundamental individual right. It was only in 2008 that the Supreme Court of the United States declared this to be so and thus far there has been little jurisprudence developed to bolster that decision. As to strict scrutiny, this is the judicial test that is most appropriate and most often applied when potential conflicts with fundamental rights are considered. Except that in cases involving Second Amendment rights, courts have generally ignored this practice and have used (and too frequently abused) less stringent tests, allowing many local and state laws and policies to remain in place that clearly and egregiously infringe upon this natural right. This amendment does require the most stringent test and it will make it difficult to infringe upon this right with the panoply of “gun control” schemes that are continually put forth. As computer programmers say, that is a feature, not a bug.

As members of the Iowa General Assembly, you most often find yourselves tinkering with the design and maintenance of our government in order to sustain its operations. In this case, however, I would ask you, as the elected representatives of the people, to break from your routine work and reconsider first principles. Iowans deserve this protection of a fundamental right and it is long past time for our state to join the mainstream by providing it.

IFC asks that you support HJR3 and move it forward for consideration by your full committee. The people of Iowa will ultimately determine whether to adopt this amendment. You owe them that opportunity.


Richard S. Rogers

Board Member, Iowa Firearms Coalition



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