Counties, Cities, Preemption, and Clarity…

Below is a letter sent by our Board Member, Richard Rogers to a member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in response to his public blog post. Please read and absorb:

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a Board Member and the volunteer lobbyist for Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC). Our grassroots organization has been deeply involved in helping craft and advance legislation over the last decade that has sought to return to Iowa law respect for and protection of those natural and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

This morning, one of your constituents who is a member of our organization contacted us and raised concerns about the “Guns in County Buildings” segment of your recent blog post. His concern was largely that Johnson County might consider suing the state over Iowa Code 724.28, which preempts the regulation of weapons to the state.

I am writing to you for a different reason, however. Your post (specifically the excerpt pasted below) indicated an important misunderstanding of this longstanding Iowa law and the recent amendments to it. Unfortunately, it appears from news reports that this misunderstanding is widely shared by government officials and journalists. You stated:

“In the 2020 Legislative Session a bill was passed (HF2502) that dramatically changed the amount of local control regarding guns. Previously, cities and counties could create local ordinances to govern whether or not firearms were allowed in municipal buildings. As of July 1, that power went away.

There is even more at stake here. The new law expressly creates an easy course of civil action for people with weapons who were denied access to a public building.”

That first paragraph is completely wrong. HF2502 most certainly did not “dramatically change the amount of local control regarding guns.” Rather, it widened the preexisting area of preemption to include “all other weapons” and firearms modifications and attachments. You next stated, “Previously, cities and counties could create local ordinances to govern whether or not firearms were allowed in municipal buildings.” In fact, such local ordinances have been specifically against the law (Iowa Code 724.28) since April 5, 1990! That law has simply been too often ignored. Since 1990, the legislature has made several efforts to emphasize the preemption of firearms regulation to the state. In 2010, the General Assembly decreed [Iowa Code 724.7(1)] that Iowa Permits to Carry Weapons are “valid throughout the state except where the carrying or possession of firearms is prohibited by state or federal law.” In 2017, the legislature added this new section [724.28(3)], which gave persons adversely affected by illegal local firearms regulations legal standing to sue:

“If a political subdivision of the state, prior to, on, or after July 1, 2017, adopts, makes, enacts, or amends any ordinance, measure, enactment, rule, resolution, motion, or policy regulating the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, registration, or licensing of firearms when the ownership, possession, transfer, transportation, registration, or license is otherwise lawful under the laws of this state, a person adversely affected by the ordinance, measure, enactment, rule, resolution, motion, or policy may file suit in the appropriate court for declaratory and injunctive relief for damages.”

You incorrectly stated “The new law expressly creates an easy course of civil action for people with weapons who were denied access to a public building.” That “easy course of civil action” for relief and damages has been available since July 1, 2017. The amendments to the law this year do now allow for the prevailing party in such a suit to also receive attorney fees and court costs.

Both the letter of the law and the record of legislative debate on these matters since 1990 make clear that the Iowa General Assembly intends to retain full authority over the regulation of weapons in this state and to prohibit the creation of an unworkable patchwork of local regulations. IFC takes the recent enactment of HF2502 as a statement by the legislature that “We really, really mean it!”

You noted that there now exists an “out” for local governments that believe they have a real and economically justified need for actual security at a particular public venue. Specifically, Iowa Code 724.28(4) has been added:

“A political subdivision of the state may restrict the carrying, possession, or transportation of firearms or other dangerous weapons in the buildings or physical structures located on property under the political subdivision’s control if adequate arrangements are made by the political subdivision to screen persons for firearms or other dangerous weapons and the political subdivision provides armed security personnel inside the building or physical structure where the restriction is to be in effect.”

You may be surprised to learn that this new provision was only included because IFC originated the idea and advocated for it over a period of several years, despite opposition from some legislators and members of our own organization. We recognized that some circumstances may support the establishment of real security measures. For example, some government-owned entertainment venues, such as Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, face contractual security obligations and would suffer economic hardship if they could not legally fulfill them. With the exception of a few county courthouses, there has been almost no real effort by local governments to actually secure the facilities in which they have attempted to “ban” firearms. Instead, they have merely implemented “No Weapons” policies (void under Iowa Code 724.28) and put up signs. While signs are inexpensive, such efforts provide zero real security and are actually counterproductive, in that only law-abiding citizens obey them and voluntarily disarm, while those who harbor evil intent or are mentally disturbed pay them no heed whatsoever. The reality is that actual security cannot be attained without effort and cost. If government intends to deprive citizens of any effective means of self-defense, then it must assume the burden of instituting real security measures.

If Iowa’s local elected officials expect residents and visitors to abide by their laws, must they not lead by example and follow state law? It is IFC’s intent to see that they do and that Iowans may freely exercise their natural and fundamental right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, and their communities.

I would welcome the opportunity to converse with you on this topic. If I can be of assistance to you in this or any other matter, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,

Richard S. Rogers
Board Member, Iowa Firearms Coalition

Our readers said:

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  1. Dr Timothy-Allen Albertson says:

    Its seems that ignorance or prevarication is a sine qua non for those who treat the Second Amendment as a dog treats a fire hydrant.

  2. Jack Hoover says:

    It may interest you to know that in my opinion when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, the right to carry, the right to defend yourselves, the DEMON Cratic Party, in general and left wingers (sheep) are tone deaf and blind. They never look down the road only down at their feet and nearly always get blindsided by freedom fighters, Patriots, and the constitution. I live in LINN County and while we have our fair share of sheep, when I cross over into Johnson County I can smell the stench of liberalism encompassing me. I can’t wait to put that County and yes, Iowa City into my rear view mirror as fast as possible. Oh, and by the way, I carry all the time and when I am in Iowa City, OPEN CARRY to let these sheep know that I as a sheep dog are there for them………. yes, even them!!!!!

  3. Norlyn Baker says:

    Richard, you have provided a cogent, definitive, and well thought response to the Johnson County Board member disseminating misinformation to his constituency. Without you and IFC the Second Amendment would have no discernable voice in Iowa’s decision making process. There are already too many bureaucrats in the Iowa government and we can only hope and pray that the efforts you are putting forth on the behalf of the good citizens of Iowa will continue to make a significant difference in the state government.

    We appreciate all of your efforts, especially since you are an unpaid volunteer as are all of IFC’s advocates.

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