Gun-related legislation passes House after walkout by Democrats - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Gun-related legislation passes House after a walkout by Democrats

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The Iowa House has passed two gun-related bills which sparked a walkout Wednesday at the Statehouse. All 40 House Democrats left the capitol for six hours Wednesday after the Republican majority opted to debate controversial legislation.

Republicans say, they were following the law. Democrats believe they were double crossed.

"The bill was brought up legitimately. I mean, I look at the blue calendar every day -- so I try to find out what bills are eligible. I know they were eligible to be debated," said Rep. Walt Rogers, (R) Cedar Falls.

"We are constantly focusing on bills when all along there is another agenda. Well, we needed to get away and talk about how, then, we should deal with it, and that's basically what we did," said Rep. Deborah Berry, (D) Waterloo.

After a few hours of heated debate, the house ultimately approved both bills. One deals with the right to bear arms, the other changes Iowa's current law regarding the right to use reasonable force in self defense. The latter is leading to some concern among public safety officers, and both are drawing support from gun rights advocates.

"I feel that we have the right to bear arms in the United States, the same as you as a reporter have the right to report things that go on. So taking my guns would be like taking your voice away from you," said Robert Salsbury, a gun smith from Waterloo.

Salsbury supports an amendment to Iowa's constitution and a change to a law regarding justifiable use of deadly force to defend ones self.

"If somebody was to break in here, my time span for getting on the telephone, calling 911, getting the police officer out here is going to be several minutes. In those several minutes, anything can happen," said Salsbury.

Salsbury already has the right to protect his property. But the bill passed in the house contains language which concerns the Black Hawk County Sheriff.

"The county attorneys have come out very strongly against it because of the concerns regarding gang-related activity and their ability to articulate a fear for their well-being," said Sheriff Tony Thompson. He went on to say, "we walk a very fine line between the ability to enable our citizens to exercise those rights, and still operate with in the focus of public safety."

Thompson is also wary about the rush to pass firearm-related legislation.

"We just changed the gun law last year. We haven't had a chance to see if those changes are going to have an effect and we're moving on to more gun legislation. That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me when the economy, education, budget, ought to be more pressing," he added.

Salsbury is happy to see the bills pass through the House. However, he's not pleased with what happened in the hours leading up to the vote.

"I don't care if they're republican or democrat," Salsbury said. "They got differences of opinion, settle it. Talk it out. Don't walk away. You can't settle anything by walking away from the table."

The bills now both move on to the Iowa Senate floor for debate.

The walkout at the Capitol also disrupted a ceremony honoring Black History Month. House democrats and republicans expressed their disappointment that this partisan issue got in the way of an important celebration.

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