I remember when the idea was offered to me that Iowa was one of only a handful of states without an expressed Right to Keep and Bear Arms within the confines of our Constitution.  It was the night “Shall Issue” passed the legislature by a Democrat-majority House and Senate.  My NRA-ILA State Director and friend, Chris Rager, said to me, “You know Michael, Iowa doesn’t even have an RKBA inclusion.  What are we going to do about that?”  It was the tail-end of March 2010, and I remember responding back to Chris, “Well, let’s see if Governor Culver signs this thing, then we’ll talk…”  On April 29th, Democrat Governor Culver indeed signed Shall Issue into Iowa law.  After the bill signing Chirs looked at me and said, “What next?”

In this picture, you’ll see then “Iowa Carry” before we changed our name to the Iowa Firearms Coalition. This was the first time we met with NRA-ILA. This was in the fall of 2009 over drinks and supper. You might guess the restaurant if you frequent those in the Des Moines area. L to R –>Sean McClanahan, President, Chris Rager of NRA-ILA, Michael Ware, VP, and John Reed, Board member and lobbyist.

There is one distinct solace I can offer you all about being the last to do something like this.  While the wait makes the nectar of a win much sweeter, the truth is you’re able to improve on all those pieces of legislation in other states that have been tried, failed, and/or met with success.  Truly I tell you, gleaning the very best parts of what others have done and avoiding the pitfalls of what didn’t work well for them, make being late to accomplish a task much easier to swallow.  Iowa’s Shall Issue law is now considered the “Gold Standard” in the United States.  Yes, we were darned late to the party compared to most other states.  But our legislators passed a darned good law.  How do I quantify that for you?  Iowa had 37K permit holders in 2010.  In 2020, we hit a few short of 400K permit holders.

…And the baseless claim of the opposition literally shouting the “streets will be curb deep in blood” hasn’t come to fruition.  Just like always, we end up with more peace and civility.  Why wouldn’t we?  There are fewer potential victims that can’t defend themselves now.  I feel the same way about Iowa’s Freedom Amendment.  We’re not the first, but it’ll be a good one to put before Iowa voters.

I took this picture at the bill signing of Shall Issue back in 2010. Democrat Governor Culver with full Democrat support and a row of Sheriffs in full support!

I believe I’m bothered the most about this discussion through the way things are framed.  Too many improperly label this topic “Gun Rights” when there is no such thing.  People have rights, not guns.  These are civil rights and liberties we’re talking about.  And unless we’ve completely chosen to forget our history in this country, the people who find themselves economically and socially marginalized always end up being hit the worst.  Justice isn’t offered the same way to everyone despite what we may intend.  As a white man traveling a country road, my traffic stop experience may not go the same way as a black man in the heart of the big city.  Why the two standards?  The equalizing impact of universally applied civil liberty is warranted and sorely needed in America.

I’ve heard a lot of disinformation and outright lies about “Strict Scrutiny” in our Freedom Amendment.  The funny thing about Strict Scrutiny, which is the highest level of judicial review, comes when we ask ourselves which one of our civil rights do we want to be considered without Strict Scrutiny?  That’s a serious question my fellow Iowans.  What civil rights and liberties do we not care about?  Our race?  Our freedom of speech or religion?  Are the same people that don’t think you and I have a right to make the choice of self-defense truly believe Rosa Parks be forced to the back of the bus again?  This country had that all wrong.  We reversed that wrong.  Too few cultures have over history.  We’re not going back to that.  There is distinct danger and much peril when we decide we’re going to take other people’s freedom and autonomy because of the way it makes us feel.  And is typically the case, the people our opposition choose to take freedom from?  You guessed it – the law-abiding.

The opposition apparently believes in levels of freedom and autonomy.  They speak about divisiveness and apply that moniker to others when the truth is far different.  Iowa’s Freedom Amendment is universal and offers benefits for all Iowans.  Not only is this change to our state constitution overdue, it comes at a crucial time for us all.  Ultimately you have to ask yourself just a couple of questions.  If I make the personal choice to exercise my civil rights with the intent of protecting innocent life, should a robed master be bound to offering a compelling reason why I shouldn’t or can’t when looking at my case or the law they’re reviewing?  …Or should they handle each case before them based on the political winds and fancy of the day?  One answer serves our society better and we know what that is.  I’m sorry our opposition doesn’t.  They should be uniting with us over any issue of civil rights.  What must they believe in order to divide us this way?

We saw a straight party-line vote yesterday in the House and in the Senate, without a single Democrat affirming our right to keep and bear arms.  They’ll tell you they tried to do so by offering amendments that mirrored the 2A on the federal level.  One only has to think back to DC v Heller, with a 5-4 decision, to know “Strict Scrutiny” needs to be present for all our civil liberties.  You’d need to ignore the fact that over 40 states have RKBA language different from the 2A for good reason, with a handful that has recently added “Strict Scrutiny” to their right to keep and bear arms language.  In both Missouri and Louisianna, attempts were made after Strict Scrutiny was applied to “undo” laws on the books – it didn’t happen.  So, you’ll hear more baseless claims from the gun control advocates about this, which simply isn’t true.  Keep in mind many of the people you’ll hear this from watched as cities burned and neighborhoods descended into chaos, all while advocating for gun control.  I ask you if anyone ever needed the personal choice of self-defense, was it not the innocent inhabitants of those neighborhoods?  Yet, we have a group of people hell-bent on placing their fractured idea of fear onto every decent person we know and love.  That idea is wrong.  Innocent life is worth protecting and the personal choice to do so should be left to the law-abiding citizens of Iowa no matter their wealth, address, religion, color, or gender.

Here is what will be on the ballot for the voters to affirm or deny:

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” 

In Liberty,

Michael Ware – IFC Chairman