By Emily Geiger
So, I’m in my car last night listening to the radio, and I hear Deace talking to some people who are promoting a bill in the statehouse that is backed by the Gun Owners of America (GOA).
Let me preface this conversation by saying that I am a strong advocate of gun rights. However, that conversation, especially some of the comments from the guy from the national organization of Gun Owners of America, was not at all helpful, and was probably very harmful to the cause they are trying to promote.
These gentlemen were advocating for the passage of House File 596, which would, among other things, take the discretionary part of the concealed-carry permit application process away from county sheriffs. They made it sound like it was the end-all be-all of pro-gun legislation. But some of what they were saying just didn’t sound right to me. So, I went home and did a little research, talked to some friends who are more knowledgeable about this than I am, and here’s what I came up with.
Some problems with House File 596 include:
– It seems to eliminate any and all training requirements for college campus security personnel who carry guns.
– It appears to change the law so that anyone, even a person without a carry permit of any kind, can carry a gun at any time for any purpose, so long as he is not intending to commit a felony, and that felony must be a crime of violence.
The problem with this is that there are lots of violent crimes that are not felonies, and lots of really bad felonies that are not “crimes of violence”, which is specifically defined by the bill as a felony that has the use of physical force by one person against another as an element of the offense.
So, if you break into a bank at night while no one’s there, but you have a gun with you just in case someone shows up, this law wouldn’t allow any extra penalties for bringing the gun along. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
I think the national GOA guy that was on the radio really did a disservice to a lot of people who believe in gun rights. He made it sound like there should obviously be no reservations about giving gun permits to people who have been in bar fights, been convicted of criminal assault or harassment. I don’t actually personally know anyone who has been in a bar fight (or been convicted of assault or harassment). The few people I talked to who have known some such people all reported that those were not people you’d want to be running around with guns.
The GOA guy just flat out got a lot of facts about Iowa law wrong. Despite his uninformed claims, you can’t get your gun rights permanently taken away as a result of an ex parte (without the defendant present) domestic abuse hearing on a protective (no-contact) order. Only the initial temporary hearing is ex parte. Then, usually within a few days, there will be a hearing with both parties present (i.e. the alleged abuser and the victim) where both sides can put on evidence. The people I talked to indicated that you could only have your gun rights taken away permanently if you are convicted of domestic violence in a criminal proceeding, which is different than a simple domestic abuse no-contact proceeding.
The thing I found really disturbing is how this GOA guy was bashing Clel Baudler, a well known gun rights proponent in the Iowa House (and former state trooper), who has actually introduced a competing bill, House File 193, that would also reform some of Iowa’s gun laws.
It seems the GOA guys think that Baudler’s bill still leaves too much discretion to the county sheriff examining a concealed-carry application. However, Baudler’s bill would require the sheriff who denied a permit to issue a written explanation for the denial, and it provides for an appeal process to deal with any cases of rogue sheriffs refusing to issue permits, which is a vast improvement from the current law.
The GOA bill, on the other hand, would have made it mandatory for the Johnson County Sheriff to have issued a permit to that U of I professor who had been accused (but not yet charged) with fondling female students just days before he went missing and killed himself with a long gun. Many speculate that perhaps he wanted a handgun permit to exact a little revenge on his accusers before he took himself out. Because the sheriff had some discretion, he was able to deny the application based on the fact there was a pending investigation, even though there was no conviction yet.
House File 193 also provides a solution to problem of what happened at Virginia Tech when a man who had repeatedly been a mental health patient was able to get a gun and kill a whole bunch of people at the school. The GOA bill doesn’t deal with this at all.
The GOA guys also didn’t like that Baudler’s bill increased the age for non-employment related gun permits to 21, up from 18. I know a lot of 18, 19, and 20-year-olds, and I don’t have a problem with this. We don’t let people drink until they are 21 because we know that the parts of the brain that control rational thinking are still developing until age 21. This provision doesn’t prevent people younger than 21 from owning guns, just from being able to carry them around and use them when they’re in a bar that they’re not supposed to be in anyway and they decide to start a fight because they don’t think like grown-ups yet.
And really, the Gun Owners of America guy calling Clel Baudler and his bill anti-gun was just over the top. Come on… Clel is the guy who went all Walker Texas Ranger on some freak who was threatening his life and trying to run him off the road. If the GOA doesn’t like Clel’s bill, which is backed by the NRA, I think that says more about them than it does about Clel.
Like I said, I just think the GOA guy and his irrational arguments and outright lies really hurt the cause of the gun rights movement in this state. Next time he wants to interfere in Iowa’s legislative process, I think we should tell him to butt out.
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