Lobbying a legislature is a difficult task, and something I don’t think a lot of people have an appreciation for. Knowing a few people who do it, across several issues, it’s skill I’ve come to have a lot of respect for. I have no doubt lobbyists often over or underestimate how much they can get. Reading a legislature can be difficult, and plotting a winning strategy through one even harder. There’s plenty of trip-ups and pit falls that can happen along the way.Â That is why I am generally very reluctant to be an armchair lobbyist and second guess their judgements. In regards to Iowa, here are some questions I would ask that are relevant to the current bill. These are not questions I know the answer to, but knowing them is critical for assessing whether the right balance is being struck:
- How many anti-gun or pro-gun-control politicians in Iowa voted to bring the Vermont Carry bill to the floor so that they could vote to kill it and put a lot of their political opponents in an awkward spot?
- Every legislature has a handful of politicians who are mostly with us, but don’t feel they could vote for something that goes really far. How many of those are in the Iowa legislature?
- What other things in the bill could really be improved? You want to propose repealing the 0.08 CWI provision? You think any politician wants to have to hear from his opponent in the next election how he voted for guns for drunks?
- What is Governor Culver expecting to be in the bill for him to sign it? Culver has said he’ll sign it. But will he? How certain are you that he’ll sign? Will he find something in the bill that he’ll use an an excuse to veto?
- If he does veto, how many votes do you lose on the override vote? Which politicians are going to switch sides to avoid going against the Governor? Do you still have enough for an override?
- How many of the “yes” votes on both bill would have been “no” votes if you had, say, removed the training requirement? Does that get you to fall below half? Do you lose the Governor? Do you lose the Governor and lose the override?
Because I don’t know the answer to these questions, I’m going to tend to give NRA and Iowa Carry the benefit of doubt. Both groups have lobbyists on the ground who are in a much much better position to know what’s going on in Des Moines than any of us. Some of these questions even they might not know the answer to, but they will have a better idea than we do. Could we have gotten a better bill in Iowa? Maybe we could have. But what we got is pretty good, and you don’t really exercise finite control over this process even if you’re a great lobbyist with powerful friends in the legislature. You go into something like this having an idea of what you want, what you think you can get, and what you can live with. No matter what the issue, that’s just how this process works.