A year ago, the Republican-led Iowa House of Representatives introduced two extreme pro-gun bills that, in the words of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, “would turn Iowa into the Wild, Wild West” (see Huff Po coverage here). And it was done in a way that didn’t allow for amendments to the bills, which caused Iowa’s Democratic Caucus to stage a six-hour walkout. One of the bills included “stand-your-ground” legislation, and the other was an open-carry-without-a-permit constitutional amendment allowing Iowans to “acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer and use arms to defend life and liberty and for all other legitimate purposes,’’ similar to Alaska’s gun regulation (or non-regulation), giving it the nickname, “The Alaska Bill” (although it’s also law in Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming). These bills passed Iowa’s House but were stifled in Iowa’s Democratic-controlled Senate. And now, in the wake of hyperfocused gun legislation, Republicans are once again attempting to revive the bill.
But are their hearts really in it? Do they really believe it would be the best thing for Iowa? Or do they perhaps think it’s a bad and dangerous idea? The Des Moines Register recently pointed out an interesting conversation amongst Iowa’s Republican leaders – a conversation they didn’t know was being overheard due to a live microphone.
Majority Whip Erik Helland, who is on a subcommittee assigned to the controversial bill, laments over how he was blasted in a blog about the bill during the earwigged conversation. He then goes on to complain about his part in the Alaska bill:
“I’m the dirty hatchet man for the [Republican] caucus. Something nobody wants to do, some dirty, nasty job. I’m the one who gets dropped in. You know why? Because I’m expendable.”
Speaker pro tem, Jeff Kaufmann, sympathizes with Helland’s plight, calling the Alaska Bill, “the crazy, give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic bill.” At that point, someone – an aide, perhaps – rushes to the rescue, informing the unwitting Republicans that their off-the-cuff conversation is being overheard via a hot mic, and the conversation comes to a quick halt.
Currently, Iowans have to seek permits from their county sheriffs in order to carry a weapon, to ensure the potential gun owner undergoes a background check and has the proper training to handle a deadly weapon. But this legislation – “House Study Bill 219” – would make the permit process “optional.” And consequently, anyone could acquire a gun in Iowa without a background check, including felons. But that’s okay, according to the Iowa Gun Owners group, the one lobbyist in favor of the bill. The group’s executive director, Aaron Dorr, told the Desmoines Register: “The bad guys are already carrying a weapon. This simply makes it easier for the good guy to do the same thing.”
The Iowa State Police Association, the State Police Officers Council, the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, and the Iowa County Attorneys Association have all registered as being against the bill. Surprisingly, the National Rifle Association has not signed on as a supporter of the bill, but is not against it either – their current status is “undecided.”