Waterloo lawmaker calls historic Iowa gun bill "terrifying" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo lawmaker calls historic Iowa gun bill "terrifying"

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa House approved a gun bill that would include a stand-your-ground provision and allow citizens to sue local governments that impose weapons restrictions.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted 58-39 mostly along party lines. The bill now heads to the GOP-majority Senate, where it has support.

The legislation would make several changes to Iowa’s gun laws, and is the culmination of years of failed attempts from Republicans to amend current rules. The party controls both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years, and this legislative session marks their first real window to make major revisions.

“It’s been a long time coming for this bill,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, shortly before the vote. “There’s still work to be done. I’m still open to input from anybody out there that has concerns with it.”

The stand-your-ground provision has been part of those concerns. It would allow a person to use deadly force anywhere if he or she believes such force was necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety. It allows a person to be wrong about an estimation of danger.

That’s problematic, said Rep. Ras Smith, (D) Waterloo. The black lawmaker at one point during floor debate put on a hoodie, a reference to the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old Martin was wearing similar clothing when he was shot and killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman ultimately didn’t use that state’s stand-your-ground law as defense, though its consideration garnered attention. Zimmerman was later acquitted of charges related to the shooting.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting - Martin was black and unarmed - led to protests and a national debate about race relations.

“The idea that you can be wrong in your estimation of a threat, but as long as you have good reason, is terrifying for some of us,” Smith said.

"This is what Representative Smith looks like when he's not in a suit and tie... with his tattoos on and his earrings, this is what I look like. So if this is the threat that you perceive, maybe I should teach those young men the mantra of 'Hands up, don't shoot,'" said Smith.

"The bad guys will kill you to get what they want. With this bill, the good guys, the law-abiding citizens are now able to protect themselves in all instances where they have a reasonable belief that force is necessary to avoid injury or death," said Rep. Shannon Lundgren, (R) Dubuque County.

Another proposal in the bill would allow a citizen to sue a local government for enacting ordinances that regulate gun-free zones if the person argues that he or she is adversely affected. Republicans have pointed out that existing law already prohibits such ordinances, but it hasn’t stopped communities from enacting policies over the years. Some Democrats said the new provision impacts local control.

“Each of our counties and cities are different,” said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. “We have different values and beliefs regarding gun ownership and gun safety. Our local government bodies should have the right to determine what is best for their citizens and community.”

At least one Republican agreed. Rep. Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant noted that in 1986, the mayor of his community was gunned down by a resident during a city council meeting. Two other council members were wounded in the shooting.

“Afterwards, we banned weapons from our city council chamber,” he said. “And this bill challenges the right of that city council to ban weapons from the city council chamber. My town will never forget what happened.”

There are several other changes in the bill. It would allow children under age 14 to use handguns with parental supervision and allow concealed weapons on the Capitol grounds. Some initial proposals to allow guns on college campuses and lifetime firearm permits were scrapped.

Around 50 gun rights activists gathered at the Capitol yesterday to lobby for the legislation, and a handful stuck around for the chamber debate. Kurt Liske, vice president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, told supporters the legislation was the “biggest pro-Second Amendment bill in state history.”

“At no point will we take a bigger step forward in protecting and enhancing your Second Amendment rights than we will when we sign this piece of legislation into law,” he said. “This really, truly is historic.”

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