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May 4th, 2011

Let’s Not Do Politics Over Policy

by John Reed, Chairman, Iowa Firearms Coalition

It has become necessary to address the controversy surrounding the so-called anti-gun House members.  I want to be very clear right at the start, that Iowa Firearms Coalition fully supports the concept of permit-less (Constitutional) carry of firearms by the citizens of Iowa. Further, IFC understands that a significant number of House Second Amendment champions who would otherwise support permit-less carry on its own merit were forced, on principle, to cast a negative vote on an amendment to bring permit-less carry to Iowa – not on its merits, not because they are anti-gun, but because of the circumstances under which it was presented.

I also want to be clear that Iowa Firearms Coalition finds no fault with the six members of the House who supported the amendment to SF-456.  However, it must be said that IFC disagrees completely with the tactics and strategy employed by Iowa Gun Owners and Aaron Dorr, and holds Mr. Dorr largely responsible for ‘poisoning’ the gun rights issue for this session.  His tactics, overt threats, misinformation about legislators and legislation have soured even the most pro-gun of legislators.

On Tuesday, April 12th, SF-456 was scheduled for floor debate.  An amendment was offered to add Mr. Dorr’s permit-less carry to the bill.  That amendment was ruled non-germane by the chair but a motion was made to suspend the rules.  This procedural vote lost and the SF-456 went on to pass the House by a 98 to 0 vote. So, the question is really this: Why did so many pro-gun House members vote against the procedural motion to suspend the rules, thus killing the permit-less carry amendment?

Haven’t we all had about enough of law makers voting on, and passing, bills that they have not read? The language of the amendment to SF-456 was virtually unknown except by a very few legislators until it was introduced. Yes, as Mr. Dorr claims in a recent email newsletter, the concept of permit-less carry had been voted on before and everyone knew he would be presenting a bill and pushing it forward for a vote. But what he fails to say is that the original language in his bill was seriously flawed! It failed to recognize changes to the code made by the Shall Issue bill passed last year and rolled back significant gains that had been made in that bill. Even though the flaws were pointed out, he steadfastly continued to push his flawed legislation.

In an effort to avoid having a vote on this flawed bill, the NRA brought forward language to use as a ‘strike-after’ amendment to totally replace the language in Mr. Dorr’s bill if it were to come up for a vote. The NRA language was only known to a very few legislators who were standing ready to bring the language if necessary. This virtually unknown language is what was presented as the amendment to SF-456. Contrary to what some may think, the specific language in a bill really matters. It’s not right to expect legislators to vote on a ‘concept’. They must vote on the specific language of the bill. Since they had not seen the specific language until that moment, they were forced to vote ‘No’ on the amendment as a matter of honor and principle!

SF-456 has been referred to by Mr. Dorr simply as a “miscellaneous gun bill” and at no time has he acknowledged publicly what was contained within this bill. This very important legislation was strongly supported by IFC, NRA, and Iowa Sportsmen’s Federation and does two things. First, it provides the legal authority for the state to report our historical mental health records for the period prior to January 1st of this year to the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) and releases funding from the federal government for entering this data. Since the integrity of the NICS background check is what gun dealers and the sheriffs rely upon to determine whether or not a purchaser for firearms is disqualified, this reporting is very important.

SF-456 also provides a path to restoration of firearms rights to citizens who, for whatever reason had at sometime in their past lost their firearms rights by having been adjudicated mentally deficient. Prior to SF-456, if someone lost their firearms rights due to a mental condition, they were prohibited for life from owning, buying, carrying, or even touching a firearm! This provision of this bill is particularly beneficial to some of our veterans.

It’s clear that this “miscellaneous gun bill” contains some extremely important provisions. SF-456 passed the Senate with a 50-0 vote.  As noted above it ultimately passed the House with a vote of 98-0. All but one gun group had agreed to set aside their other initiatives in order to allow this bill to move without amendment into law. However, Mr. Dorr chose to place politics over good policy by pushing his bill for permit-less carry as an amended to SF-456.

Any amendment to SF-456 would have sent the bill back to the Senate for further consideration. With permit-less carry attached, the bill was almost surely destined to be voted down and therefore kill the underlying language as well as the amendment. House legislators who voted against the permit-less carry amendment should not be considered as ‘anti-gun’ simply for this carefully considered and principled vote.

Mr. Dorr has made quite a fuss over the fact that several legislators violated their pledge to him by not voting for his bill. After considering the facts above, is it reasonable to assume that the answers to his questionnaire should be held above good, principled, honest evaluation of good policy no matter how flawed in premise and in execution his bill is? I don’t think so! This procedural vote, with all of the baggage clearly explained above, forced Second Amendment warriors to vote ‘No’ on a bill that without the baggage they would have happily voted ‘Yes’.  And, for that reason IFC, NRA, Iowa Sportsmen’s Federation – groups which represent perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iowa gun owners – notified the members of the House that their procedural vote on the amendment to SF-456 would not be graded.

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The Iowa Republican

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