Oct 12, 2022 - Politics

Iowa residents to vote on adding gun rights amendment to state constitution

Illustration of a gun with a gavel for a trigger.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Iowa would have some of the most extensive gun rights guarantees in the nation under a constitutional amendment for voters to decide on Nov. 8.

Why it matters: A "yes" vote would mean all gun restrictions under the Iowa amendment would be subject to "strict scrutiny," the highest legal hurdle for legislation to clear if challenged in court.

  • Amendment advocates say it's a long-overdue measure to protect gun ownership as a fundamental individual right but opponents contend it would override common sense measures to protect public safety.

Catch up fast: Iowa is one of six states that doesn't recognize Second Amendment rights in its state constitution.

  • The amendment's language was passed in the Republican-controlled legislature in 2019 and 2021, a procedure that allowed it to appear on this year's ballots.
  • It needs a simple majority to pass.

What they're saying: The proposal goes much further than the Second Amendment, placing gun access ahead of safety and potentially blocking policies that limit them in places like school settings, Connie Ryan, executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, tells Axios.

Of note: Amendments like the one proposed in Iowa have only been adopted by three states —Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri and each was approved between eight and 10 years ago — according to research published by the Iowa Law Review.

  • Those states rank among the top five with the highest gun death rates, according to 2020 statistics from the CDC.

Yes, but: Gun rights advocates have already succeeded via a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that struck down New York's concealed carry law, Richard Rogers, a board member of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, told Axios.

  • That ruling is redefining how gun restrictions are reviewed.
  • Iowa's proposed amendment would be "a belt of protection that's a backup to the suspenders of the Second Amendment," Rogers said.

The intrigue: Both sides tell Axios they believe public opinion is generally on their side.

  • The outcome is likely dependent on whether voters are educated on the issue and bother to turn over their ballots, retired Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen told Axios.
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