Oct 28, 2022 - News

Des Moines' Wells Fargo Arena has a gun rights dilemma brewing

A photo inside Wells Fargo Arena

Tickets for next year's March Madness at Wells Fargo Arena are on sale now. Photo courtesy of Catch Des Moines

An Iowa Wild scoring official resigned earlier this month after Wells Fargo Arena managers refused to allow him to bring a gun into the building as he reported for duty before a game, Polk County administrator John Norris told supervisors in a memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The man threatened to sue.

  • The case could become one of the first to face "strict scrutiny" judicial review if voters approve a constitutional amendment in the Nov. 8 election.

Zoom in: Courts would interpret gun laws using the highest level of judicial scrutiny if the amendment passes.

  • Yes, and: It would set the bar higher for governments to defend weapon restrictions.

Flashback: County and city governments are generally not allowed to restrict guns in their buildings unless they have armed security to screen visitors, under a state law signed in 2020 by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

  • The law does not apply to privately owned businesses.

State of play: Wells Fargo Arena is owned by the county but leased to Oak View Group (OVG), an international live entertainment management company.

  • Weapon restrictions are enforced under OVG's rules.
  • The arena's security team is unarmed but police are generally on site for events, the site's general manager, Chris Connolly, told Axios Thursday.

What they're saying: Questions have been raised to the Iowa Firearms Coalition about whether the arena should be required to have consistent armed security to maintain its weapons ban, board member Richard Rogers, told Axios Thursday.

Yes, but: Rogers thinks the arena's current policies could nonetheless pass a strict scrutiny review because the facility has security and would likely be considered a "sensitive place."

  • He said he has lobbied for an exception to the 2020 law for government-owned facilities like the arena because "there's a very good economic reason to not allow weapons there."

The other side: The full impact of the proposal is unknown, Connie Ryan, a member of the anti-amendment group Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws, told Axios Thursday.

  • She predicts multiple challenges to gun restrictions like those at the arena if the amendment passes.

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