Do you remember how that at this time twelve years ago we Iowans who value our Second Amendment rights were anxiously awaiting the New Year? January 1, 2011 was the effective date of the new “shall issue” law on Iowa Permits to Carry Weapons. The law removed the ability of county sheriffs to arbitrarily deny or revoke permits or to place their own restrictions on them. It also gave applicants, for the first time, a process for appeal of denials and made the permits valid for five years, rather than only one. As a result, Iowa, which for years had witnessed only about 30,000 or fewer permit holders, had more than 101,500 Permits to Carry Weapons issued in 2011. Since then, the number of Iowans who have made the effort to undertake firearm safety training and to apply and pay for a Permit to Carry has grown to more than 425,000 – and Iowa is third in the nation for the percentage of eligible adults holding such permits. Of course, since July 1, 2021, law-abiding Iowans may carry the weapon of their choice whether they have a permit or not.
Well, back in the Fall of 2010 not everyone in Iowa was as pleased about the looming change in the law as were we. Many who had opposed us during our years-long legislative battle then warned that “blood will flow in the streets!” Among those who were seemingly alarmed were many public and quasi-public officials, such as members of city councils, county boards of supervisors, as well as park, library, and hospital boards. Even a few county sheriffs and police chiefs publicly raised concerns.
As we approached the New Year, and then well into 2011, some of these officials began to consider – and in many cases actually institute – new local restrictions on the carrying of firearms. They completely ignored the fact that Iowa law (specifically, Iowa Code 724.28) had for more than twenty years prohibited local ordinances that attempted to regulate firearms more strictly than did state law. Worse yet, Iowa’s long-time Attorney General, Tom Miller, allowed his office to give a wink and a nod to these local authorities, telling them that, while they “may not issue such an ordinance”, they might get away with a “resolution” and advising them that his office did not believe that the legislature had intended to deprive them of the ability to control weapons on “their own property”. Of course, that was exactly what the legislature had intended. To emphasize this, the legislature had included this new line in the “shall issue” legislation: “All permits so issued … shall be valid throughout the state except where the possession or carrying of a firearm is prohibited by state or federal law.”
Iowa Firearms Coalition soon began to hear from Iowans across the state about new local restrictions being placed on the carrying of firearms – some with public hearings and many without. The trickle of reports soon turned into a torrent and IFC went to work advising and supporting our members and friends in trying to turn the tide. After a period of many months, we had been in large part, but not entirely, successful. Some local officials were stubborn and many other restrictions flew under our radar. However, this flurry of activity in late 2010 and throughout 2011 caused IFC to get to work trying to convince the legislature to strengthen Iowa Code 724.28, the “firearm preemption statute”.
An amendment passed in 2017 ensures that any “person adversely affected by [such an unlawful] ordinance, measure, enactment, rule, resolution, motion, or policy may file suit in the appropriate court for declaratory and injunctive relief 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.”
In 2020, the legislature expanded the protection from local restrictions to all weapons, as well as firearms modifications and attachments, and to the storage of firearms and ammunition.
Also in 2020, an Iowa District Court slapped down an attempt by Monroe County to ignore Iowa Code 724.28 and ruled definitively that local governments not only may not implement or enforce their own policies on weapons, but that even implying the existence of such a policy through signage is unlawful. Earlier this year, Monroe County agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a suit that IFC and one of our members brought against the county on First Amendment grounds. We contended that the county had attempted to chill our rights to free speech and to petition our government when they sued us after our member had brought to the Board of Supervisors’ attention their clear violation of the preemption statute. The effect of IFC’s victory in both of these legal actions has sent a strong and clear message to local governments – don’t mess with Iowans’ right to keep and bear arms.
All of this came to mind earlier today as I was going through some old files and found the documents below. The first one is a map published by IFC on February 5, 2011, representing the scale of the preemption problem we were facing at that time. Remember, the counties shown here to be in violation of the statute were only the ones that we knew about on that date. Also, it doesn’t show the many towns and cities that were also in violation.
The next two pages are a letter from the then Chief of Police in Marion, Iowa to local retailers and a “No Weapons Allowed” notice that the Chief enclosed with his letter. Take the time to read the letter, in which this “public servant”, sworn to uphold the individual rights of Iowans, essentially seeks to bully local business owners into putting up his “No Guns for You!” signs and impressing them into his service in making it difficult for anyone but his officers to carry guns in his town. I don’t know what ever happened to Chief Daugherty, but I do know that he is no longer with the Marion Police Department.
For some of you, this is a review. For others, it will be new information. It is pleasant to either recall or to learn how far we have come over the last dozen years in restoring our state’s recognition, protection, and respect for our natural and fundamental right to keep and bear arms. And we have certainly been proved correct in our denial of the prediction that “blood will run in the streets” as a result of these reforms.
However, as election day approaches (November 8 is now less than two months away), please remember that all that has been accomplished could be undone in a single legislative session if anti-liberty forces were to gain control of Iowa’s government. In fact, judging from the truly draconian anti-gun bills that are introduced every year, we could have laws here that you never thought you would see outside New York and California: gun bans, limits on magazine capacity, mandatory and untenable insurance and storage requirements, and a return to “may issue” carry permits – or none at all!
But when Iowans adopt our Freedom Amendment on November 8, it will add strong protections of our right to keep and bear arms to Iowa’s Constitution. That should make it difficult to impossible for any Iowa legislature or bureaucrat to reverse course and stomp on our rights. So, from now to Election Day, spread the message of the Freedom Amendment far and wide and make sure that your family and friends turn their ballots over and vote YES on the only constitutional amendment. Remember, “Page Two for 2A!”
-Richard Rogers – IFC Chief Lobbyist and Board Member