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A Victory in Iowa Has National Implications

Yesterday there was quite a show in Iowa, with the Democrats walking out over some proposed gun bills. But the bills managed to pass. Iowa is one of only a few states without any right to keep and bear arms provision, and this bill would propose an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to give it one. What’s more important, the language is much stronger, and not open to interpretation by the courts:

The right of an individual to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer and use arms to defend life and liberty and for all other legitimate purposes is fundamental and shall not be infringed upon or denied. Mandatory licensing, registration, or special taxation as a condition of the exercise of this right is prohibited, and  any other restriction shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

One Iowa representative, who is on the NRA Board, had joined with Democrats to water the language down to just be a rehashing of the Second Amendment, which would have defeated the whole point of this endeavor. I asked some folks I know at NRA what was up in Iowa, and they assured me they would be attempting to fix the language on the floor. It appears that was managed, and this has passed through the House with the original, strong language. I don’t know why Clel Baudler weakened the language, but there could be a number of reasons that don’t amount to sabotage. It’s important to note that Clel voted to improve the language in the final bill. We will try to contact his office and see if he’s willing to talk about what happened there. This bill is of extreme strategic importance the way it is, and language that just repeated the Second Amendment would not have the impact we need.

Long Term Strategy

There just aren’t many states left without a RKBA provision where we could do something like this, but with lower courts in this country consistently reading the Second Amendment to be a narrow, essentially meaningless right, passing something like this would be a strong signal to the courts as to how the people interpret their right.

Secondly, Iowa is not a state known for radical politics in either direction. Most Iowans I’ve met are pretty mellow, easy going people. If a provision like this can pass in Iowa, we can probably pass it in other states. This is important, even for states that already have RKBA, because in the event the left interprets the Second Amendment out of the Constitution, overturning Heller and McDonald, or narrowing the decisions into meaninglessness, pushing a federal constitutional amendment is going to be the only recourse. Passage of a constitutional amendment this strong in a state like Iowa would serve as a warning to the left-wing judges to treat the Second Amendment seriously, because we might have the juice to pass this as a federal amendment if the backlash is severe enough, and with language that won’t leave any weasel room.

Short Term Strategy

Our opponents fear and loathe this proposed amendment. Despite all their hewing and hawing about how gun owners are bullies who don’t believe in democracy, this bill would have to pass the Legislature twice in two back-to-back sessions, and then be voted up or down by the people of Iowa. Our opponents should welcome this. But despite their machinations, they don’t really believe in democracy either. They don’t have the money to fight a ballot measure, and they know we do. Gun control leaders are great supporters of Democracy if they think Democracy will go their way. Not so much if they think they’ll lose.

Also, short term, this fixes a lot of problems for Iowa, where not every local community has welcomed the changes in their gun laws, and this should allow some restrictive laws to be challenged in court. It also ought to preserve carry rights. Had language that echoed the Second Amendment made its way through, the courts in Iowa would have likely just piggy backed off the federal protections, which would have gotten Iowa nowhere.

Short Term Tactics

If you live in Iowa, contact your Senators. Hold them accountable in the up coming elections if they don’t help move this. Iowa’s senate is still controlled by the Democrats, so there’s probably little chance the RKBA amendment bill is going to be taken up. But some phone calls might put some fear into Senators to act.

8 Responses to “A Victory in Iowa Has National Implications”

  1. And Iowa is a lot of why California’s Constitution doesn’t have a RKBA provision. The California Constitution of 1849 was modeled on the Iowa Constitution, because many of the early settlers of California were from Iowa.

    There is also the discussion in the California constitutional convention that there was no real need for a right to keep and bear arms in the state constitution, since the Second Amendment already protected an individual right.

  2. Doesn’t this effectively enshrine Constitutional Carry in Iowa’s Constitution?

    What’s left, the Senate and the Governor? What else do they have to do to amend their Constitution?

  3. There aren’t many states without a right to keep and bear arms, but Maryland is one of them. Our highest state court has even challenged the Supreme Court on whether or not the right extends outside one’s own home or business. It has specifically ruled that there is no right to bear arms in a public place and that if the Supreme Court thinks that right exists “it will have to say so more plainly.”

    And they get away with calling this place “The Free State.”

  4. Nathaniel says:

    “with language that won’t leave any weasel room.”

    I’m not convinced. “Congress shall make no law” and “shall not be infringed” seem to leave zero room for weasels. And yet somehow the weasels keep getting in. It’s as if constitutions don’t really work.

    • HSR47 says:

      The issue is the difference between plain English and legalese.

      The Second Amendment is written in the former, whilst the above proposed amendment to a state’s constitution is the latter.

  5. Chuck says:

    @Nathaniel: Constitutions do work, as long as they’re enforced.

    • Nathaniel says:

      By who? There was a 60-year period in the 20th century during which the Supreme Court didn’t overturn any laws passed by congress, and they sure don’t make a habit of it now.

      We had marginal protection when the constitution was enforced by the states, via the threat of nullification and secession (Kentucky/Virginia against the Sedition Act, New England against early 19th century wars, and South Carolina against unequal tariffs), but no longer.

      Given that we today have such a huge government, beyond what the Constitution allows, there are only two options (in the words of Lysander Spooner): “[the Constitution] has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it.”

  6. Jdude says:

    “arms”

    An unscrupulous person could argue that this does not clarify what kind of arms are allowed and attempt to limit them that way. The only impediment to that argument is Heller’s “common use”. If I am wrong, it may potentially become an affirmative defense against the NFA within the confines of Iowa law at least.

    Other than that I absolutely love it. Immediate constitutional carry, absolutely solid directions to the court on how to interpret the right, and extremely clear and unambiguous language right there in the proposed amendment.

    Could this potentially be seen or read as a challenge to NICS?

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