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Iowa Views: Iowa Republican lawmakers make a stand for freedom — well, one freedom (to get and carry guns)

Iowa Views: Iowa Republican lawmakers make a stand for freedom — well, one freedom (to get and carry guns)

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The following editorial was published in the Des Moines Register on March 25:

No legislative session would be complete without Republicans trying to make it easier for Iowans to buy and tote around guns.

This year is no exception. Under a bill passed by the Iowa Legislature and sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowans would be able to purchase and carry handguns without permits.

House File 756 seems less about creating sound policy and more about Republican lawmakers creating another opportunity to publicly profess their love of the Second Amendment.

The legislation is about “advancing Iowans’ freedom,” said House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley.

The legislation protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners, said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.

“These proposals recognize that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and that Iowans should not be required to get a permission slip and pay a fee in order to purchase a firearm and practice their fundamental Second Amendment rights,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison.

An unfettered ability to exercise your constitutional rights? The same group refuses to apply that philosophy to voting. Yet it doesn’t want the slightest inconvenience for those desiring to carry around deadly weapons.

To be clear, obtaining a permit to own and carry a firearm in this state is hardly difficult, which is why more than 400,000 Iowans have these permits. You can frequently apply online. In some counties, the entire process is done without ever showing up in person anywhere.

The “certification” course for a permit to carry a handgun is frequently a joke. You can pay $30 for an online course, take a nap, never fire a weapon, and voila, you’ve graduated.

Permits do, however, ensure background checks of applicants. Allowing people to buy handguns without obtaining a permit to carry or acquire would eliminate background checks for those purchasing from anyone other than federally licensed dealers.

Republicans’ answer to that is not compelling. The legislation would make it a Class D felony to sell, rent or loan a gun to a person that the seller “knows or reasonably should know” is prohibited from owning firearms. Yet anyone selling a gun could say they didn’t know the buyer was not supposed to have one. Why not make it a crime to sell a gun to a prohibited person, period?

The process of securing a permit helps applicants know whether or not they are eligible to own a handgun. Some people have no idea that an involuntary commitment for substance abuse or a domestic altercation can result in the loss of their right to own a firearm. They may think a felony conviction “fell off” their record when it didn’t. Without going through the permit process, they may not find out about this barrier until they’re trying to buy a gun at a store or are stopped by law enforcement — and perhaps cited for illegally possessing one.

Permits allow holders to carry their guns in many states and buy from federally licensed retailers without undergoing a background check before each purchase. The Iowa Senate passed the bill on March 22, less than a week after a gunman killed eight people at spas in the Atlanta, Georgia, metro, and on the same day a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store. The two mass shootings touched off another spasm in America’s chronic gun rights versus gun control culture clash.

If Reynolds signs this bill into law, it will be easier for dangerous people to avoid background checks and obtain guns. Some landlords could not control their own property and prohibit gun possession by tenants. Average people will be more confused about proper protocols for gun ownership.

Iowa will not be a better place to live. It will not be safer for families. But GOP lawmakers can once again crow about their efforts to get more guns in the hands of more people. So they’ve got that going for them.

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