Hoodie and headphones: Standing ground on Iowa gun bill - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hoodie and headphones: Standing ground on Iowa gun bill

Posted: Updated:

The Iowa House approved a gun bill that would include a stand-your-ground provision and allow Iowans to use deadly force if they feel it's necessary to protect themselves. One Representative put on a hoodie and headphones in order to make a statement in opposition to the controversial bill. 

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. 

“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.

"It's been stated that this bill is crafted in a way that applies to all Iowans equally," said Smith. "And while I agree that we are all created equal, I do not agree that all Iowans are treated equally or protected equally."

Those in opposition to the bill argue the legislation would leave someone's life in the matter of a "judgment call."

“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. "My biggest concern was the phrasing in which you don't have to have a real reason. You just have to have a reasonable threat. What does a reasonable threat look like? What does that mean?"

Smith says he's a gun-owner himself, but feels the stand-your-ground provision is unreasonable. 

"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.

Republicans who support the bill, argue in the name of self-defense. 

"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.

"We don't want to disenfranchise people, and make them feel afraid to go certain places because of how someone may perceive them," said Smith. "At the end of the day perceptions become reality and I can't control my image of what I look like. And neither can some of these other people who may be victimized by those who want to do wrong, and this may give them an 'out' and that's something that is scary to me."

During the debate, another concern raised by Representative and Police Lieutenant Wes Breckenridge (D) was a need for more training. 

"The reason I'm speaking out is not only because myself and law enforcement, but those that I visited with in law enforcement, and how that's going to impact us trying to do our job in this field," said Breckenridge. "Again, I support the second amendment-card carrying individual, weapons permit, but we need to be responsible"

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

Powered by Frankly