By Emily Geiger
I have to say I was shocked and a little shaken when I heard the horrible news story about the man who is apparently obsessed with Iowa’s golden girl, Shawn Johnson. Earlier this week, this man was caught attempting to jump a fence to get to the Dancing with the Stars studio to meet her. The police found one loaded handgun, one loaded shotgun, duct tape, plastic zip ties, love letters addressed to Shawn, and a map of Shawn’s whereabouts in the trunk of the man’s car. He has been arrested and charged with one count of stalking and two counts of carrying loaded firearms within city limits with no permits in California.
One of the things that jumped out at me in all the news coverage is the fact that the perpetrator presented police with an expired concealed carry permit. It made me think about what would have happened if all this had occurred in Iowa. More specifically, it made me think about what the consequences would have been for this disturbed man under the two competing concealed carry permit bills that were introduced in the Iowa Legislature this year.
Now, keep in mind that neither concealed carry bill made it out of committee before the funnel deadline, so they both appear to be dead. But there’s always a possibility that someone could try to revive either of these bills via the amendment process.
First I have to issue a disclaimer. There is only so much we know about the facts of this case thus far. It is very likely that there is more to this that we don’t yet know. For example, it is possible that this man might have been following Shawn around for several days or tried to make contact with her in the past. But, as far as we know right now, this was a one-time incident.
Under Iowa’s stalking law, this man might not have done anything wrong, particularly if this was the first time he attempted to communicate with Shawn. Further, it is debatable whether or not he actually “communicated” with her (which is a requirement of this law) given that the love letters were still in his trunk (i.e. not delivered to Shawn) and given that it does not appear that the man actually got to talk to Shawn in person.
It’s also not clear that Iowa’s harassment law would apply. Once again, it’s not clear that this guy actually communicated with Shawn. It’s also not clear that this man had “personal contact” with her.
So, what Iowa law would this sicko have violated? Well, under the current law, he would be guilty of firearms violation. But, if HF 596, backed by the Gun Owners of America, were law, he wouldn’t even be guilty of that. Under this bill, it would not be illegal to be transporting loaded weapons, even without a permit. Some might argue that this bill would classify what this guy did as felony under this legislation since it could be argued that he was intending to commit a “crime of violence.” The problem is that you probably couldn’t prove that the guy was intending to commit a crime of violence as that phrase is defined under this legislation. You could probably only prove he intended to stalk or harass, and physical force is not an element of those crimes, so under this bill, those aren’t crimes of violence.
It also appears that HF 596 might have superseded the part of the stalking law that views the criminal conduct as more severe when the perpetrator stalks while in possession of a dangerous weapon, such as a gun. The ironic thing is that, given this muddied-up scenario, stalking with a razor or a stiletto could actually be viewed as worse than stalking with a gun.
So basically, in Iowa , if HF 596 were in place, this guy would probably be charged with a relatively minor misdemeanor, or nothing at all, and he’d probably be back out on the streets right now… still obsessing over Shawn, or perhaps moving on to being obsessed with one of your kids.
This is why there needs to be some reasonable rules that could prevent certain deranged people from carrying guns around. I don’t think a sheriff in Iowa should have total discretion to deny permits, but there are certain cases in which permits should be denied, which is why I supported HF 193 instead.
If there’s anyone out there who disagrees with this, I’ll be waiting for you to publicly volunteer to bring Shawn’s crazy stalker back his guns. And then I’ll watch as hoards of Shawn’s loyal fans beat some sense into you. Watch out… little girls in leotards can really pack a wallop.
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