Great news! HF2502, the number one legislative priority for both IFC and NRA in this year’s legislative session, was among the thirty-one bills signed on Thursday, June 25 by Governor Reynolds. This important new law will become effective next Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
Since the enactment of HF2502 marks the completion of IFC’s legislative efforts for the 88th General Assembly (2019/2020), this is a good time to look back at the achievements and disappointments that we have experienced during this very unusual year.
First, let’s look back at the first session of the current General Assembly in 2019. IFC’s top priority was the passage of a Joint Resolution to adopt the Freedom Amendment, which will put strong protections for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms into Iowa’s Constitution. We won that battle, though the Resolution must be passed again in the next General Assembly in order to then be put to a vote of the people of Iowa.
IFC’s second priority last year was the Family Defense Act. That bill would have enabled Iowans to lawfully carry their defensive firearms in the parking lots and driveways of public schools, protected them from being fired for safely storing firearms or ammunition in their private vehicles in employer provided parking, strengthened Iowa’s law prohibiting local governments from regulating firearms, and dealt with the overreach of Iowa’s courts in demanding that counties post laughably impotent “No Guns” signs on non-court areas of every courthouse. Unfortunately, due to fear and misunderstanding (largely as a result of the media and Michael “Nanny” Bloomberg’s well-funded minions), the Family Defense Act was not taken up for debate by the House. It was opposed strongly by those controlling the Democrat caucus and no Democrat was willing to vote for the bill. Under the political circumstances, the slim Republican majority (one member of which defected to the Democrat Party late in the session), was unwilling to risk a vote on what would be portrayed as a “Guns at School!” bill. The good news last year was that, for the first time, a bill dealing with these important but sensitive issues passed intact through the committee process in the House. The “school parking lot carry” and “employer parking lots” aspects were taken up separately by the Senate and were also approved by committees and eligible for floor debate. (Since they would obviously not be considered by the House at that point, the Senate did not take those bills up for debate.) IFC celebrated our victories, acknowledged our losses, and continued to strategize with legislative allies in preparation for the next session.
As the 88th General Assembly reconvened in January of this year, no one could have predicted the events that would soon envelop us. Most anticipated a typical election year session, with the majorities defending their record as “progress” and the minority attacking it as “insufficient” at best and “wrong-headed failure” for the most part. It was expected that Iowa’s election results would largely be reflective of the national electorate’s view of the economy during the summer and fall. IFC’s members and allies naturally wondered if Second Amendment issues would continue to be pushed to the back burner, as the majority sought to attract those elusive “middle of the road” voters, who are alleged to be skeptical of us and receptive to so-called “common sense regulation of guns”. So, we started the legislative session with lowered expectations, but resolved that we would remain fully engaged in the fight for each and every one of our priority issues. We would not grant our friends a pass, nor certainly our adversaries.
In the House – our area of greatest concern, due to the narrow split between parties – we were very pleased when our number one priority bill, HF2502, moved fairly rapidly through the committee process. The bill incorporates fully half of the provisions of our 2019 Family Defense Act and with strengthened language. Rep. Steven Holt (R- Crawford) was outstanding in his support of the bill in the Public Safety Committee and later as its floor manager during the House debate. The bill passed the House 52-44 on February 27. House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl delivered the vote of every Republican. Unfortunately, not a single Democrat Representative was willing to cross their leadership and vote for the bill.
HF2502 moved to the Senate, where Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Crawford) guided it quickly through sub-committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. That Committee’s vote to recommend passage on March 9 meant that the bill was ready for debate by the full Senate. IFC was confident it would be approved and sent to the Governor. Unfortunately, our excitement proved to be premature.
Suddenly, Iowa and the nation were rocked by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislature suspended work and recessed on March 17 for an indefinite period. It was immediately apparent that though the legislature would eventually reconvene briefly to conclude the session, the severity of the shock to Iowa’s economy and to the state’s budget would completely overshadow concerns about various “policy” bills that had been under consideration in March. Were HF2502 and our other remaining bills now dead – or merely on life support?
They say every cloud has a silver lining. As horrible as the pandemic’s disruption of normal life and our expectations has been – disruption that is now being supercharged by significant violence throughout our nation – it has brought clarity to many Americans that may benefit our cause of Liberty. Those of us who have long been in the trenches in support of those rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment understand that we – every individual – are ultimately responsible for providing for the safety and security of self and family. We may find it necessary to be our own “first responders”. A great number of formerly comfortable and complacent Americans have now been forced to the same realization. Reality can bite anyone and it is best to be prepared!
When the lockdowns started in Iowa, local governments curtailed their operations and generally closed their buildings to the public. As a consequence, many Sheriffs announced that they would no longer process applications for weapons permits for the duration of the emergency. This was due to practical considerations and not any basic objection to issuing permits. However, the law expressly requires Sheriffs to receive and process such applications and doesn’t allow them to push a pause button. Immediately upon first learning of such an announcement, IFC launched into action. An appeal was made to our legislative allies and to the Office of the Governor and within days Governor Reynolds had issued orders requiring Sheriffs to continue processing permit applications and allowing for exceptions to the statutory requirement that some applications be presented in person. At the time, probably no one anticipated how important this would prove to be, but gun dealers soon found themselves swamped with first time buyers looking for defensive firearms. Since Iowa requires a Permit to Acquire Pistols and Revolvers for any transfer of a handgun, a halt to the issuance of those permits would have blocked countless Iowans from legally exercising their Second Amendment rights.
At the same time, numerous other states and localities were halting the issuance of permits, forcing the closure of firearms dealers, and even banning the transfer, carrying, or public possession of firearms entirely. (Thanks to the Emergency Powers provisions of the Omnibus Gun Bill championed by IFC in 2017, such emergency actions are prohibited under Iowa law.) People who had never thought they might need a gun – or who even actively disliked them – now found it quite difficult or impossible to obtain one. The innumerable gun laws that they had accepted or actively endorsed turned out to be based on nonsense, rather than common sense. This belated rush to the gun stores has only accelerated in recent weeks amid overheating political rhetoric and the rapid spread of actual violence. Many Americans have had their eyes opened to the real value of the Second Amendment.
When the legislature reconvened on June 3, they did indeed focus on budget matters. But there was also a heightened realization that Second Amendment rights are of great importance to Iowans in the reality of their daily lives, not just as political theory. The Senate quickly took up and passed HF2502 and sent it to the Governor. As expected, she has now signed it and its provisions are effective as of July 1.
The Senate also approved HF716, a bill passed by the House in 2019. That bill on firearms requirements for deer hunting is the culmination of three years of discussion, cooperation, and negotiation, among IFC, NRA, the Natural Resources Commission, the Dept. of Natural Resources, and legislators. More on the bill below…
Finally, on June 1, the Governor signed SF537 into law. This bill was sponsored by Senator Jason Schultz and supported by IFC. It allows for the hunting of coyotes with the use of a weapon mounted infrared light source.
Now that you have the back story, let’s take a look at what will change in Iowa law on July 1.
HF2502 contains the following provisions:
Prohibition of Weapons Regulation by Local Governments
Amends Iowa Code 724.28 to make absolutely clear that only the Iowa Legislature may regulate the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, modification, registration, or licensing of firearms, firearms attachments, or other weapons. (Underlined words are new. The statute previously applied only to firearms.)
- Local governments may not enact an ordinance, motion, resolution, policy, or amendment to such effect. Such measures are void after July 1, 2020. This will include, for instance, library and park “rules of conduct”.
- 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 and all damages attributable to the violation. A court shall also award the prevailing party in any such lawsuit reasonable attorney fees and court costs. (Underlined language is new.)
Protection of “Courthouse Carry” from Judicial Overreach
Provides that a court order prohibiting the lawful carrying, possession, or transportation of a weapon in a county courthouse or other joint-use public facility shall be unenforceable unless the judicial order applies only to a courtroom or a court office, or to a courthouse used only for judicial branch functions.
Shooting Range Protection
Provides that cities and counties may not apply and enforce arbitrary regulations and restrictions upon those seeking to establish, use, or maintain an existing shooting range or to improve an existing range. Conditions may not be imposed beyond the requirements of standard zoning and of state law.
It should be remembered that it was only last summer that the Des Moines City Council seriously considered criminalizing the possession within the city limits of ammunition magazines with a capacity greater than ten rounds. IFC and Des Moines citizens pushed back hard and the proposal was tabled “for further study”, but the desire for such local regulation remains strong. You can tell how significant our victory on this issue is by the shrieks and gnashing of teeth we are hearing from Bloomberg’s shills at Moms Demand Action and Everytown.
- Allows for supervised youth to hunt deer with handguns, eliminating the previous prohibition for those under age sixteen
- Requires the Natural Resources Commission to use established Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives definitions of firearms when setting rules (In 2017, the NRC outlawed the hunting of deer with AR-style pistols through a tortuous and obscure new rule.)
- Removes archaic and unnecessary language from the statute and aligns it with NRC rules
- Clarifies and simplifies the ammunition allowed to be used in handguns (minimum four-inch barrel) in the deer hunt. Ammunition propelling an expanding-type bullet with a maximum diameter of no less than three hundred fifty thousandths of one inch and no larger than five hundred thousandths of one inch and with a published or calculated muzzle energy of five hundred-foot pounds or higher will be legal.
Allows for the hunting of coyotes with a weapon or scope mounted infrared light source. See the statute for limitations.
You have seen how Iowa’s weapons laws have improved drastically over the last decade, even as they have become increasingly draconian in so many other states. You have seen in recent months how quickly Second Amendment rights can become completely forfeit at the hands of hostile elected officials and bureaucrats in times of political and social unrest – exactly when they are most needed. We – IFC’s members and allies – MUST not become complacent! Imagine what could happen here if we lose our Second Amendment friendly majorities in the Iowa legislature. Or with a Governor beholden to radical anti-gun, anti-liberty forces and moneymen… For one thing, if we lose even a couple of friendly members in the Iowa House, we will NEVER see the Freedom Amendment become part of the Iowa Constitution. We desperately need the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in our state’s highest law – especially as the enemies of liberty work to keep the U. S. Supreme Court from upholding its own Second Amendment rulings in Heller and McDonald.
Please, if you are not already a supporting member of Iowa Firearms Coalition, join with us now. Then spend time, energy, and money in this election season to support pro-Second Amendment, pro-liberty candidates. Our own political action committee, IFC PAC, will be raising and spending funds to help inform you and other like-minded Iowa voters about those worthy of our help and our votes. Don’t sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. We can not afford to lose this one! The future nature of our state and nation is truly at stake.