Following the results of last November’s election, the GOP now has control of both the legislature and the governorship in 25 states. By comparison, the Democrats have the same level of control in only 6 states. The Iowa Senate was one of two state senates the GOP gained on election night, giving the party full control of my home state.
As the Iowa Senate passed a voter ID bill last Thursday, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the largest pro-gun bill in the state’s history. This brings Des Moines one step closer to becoming the next location from where Snake Plisskin must escape.
The most notable change in Iowa gun policy will be the addition of a stand-your-ground law.
“We’ve seen in other states in the past, for example, where somebody is the victim of a home invasion,” Iowa Firearms Coalition President Barry Snell told The Des Moines Register. “And they unfortunately have to shoot the person, and then the family (of the convicted criminal) turns around and sues them. Even if they win – and they almost always do win, it’s not a question of that – it’s that now they have a $200,000 legal bill.”
Snell’s example advocating for Iowa’s own stand-your-ground law is ridiculous when you consider the situation he describes has already been covered for years under the state’s current law.
In Iowa, a resident already has the right to use lethal force in their home, vehicle or business if they feel their life is in danger.
Under the state’s new stand-your-ground law, you can use lethal force anywhere with no prior responsibility to de-escalate the situation or notify law enforcement… as long as you perceive your life to be in danger.
In February, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek of Johnson County, Iowa, told The Gazette:
“What I’m concerned about with stand your ground is that it will make it much easier for someone to take someone else’s life and simply say, ‘I felt threatened.”
If the law sounds familiar, it’s likely because it was widely discussed after the 2012 slaying of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman.
Although Zimmerman’s attorney did not cite the law in their defense, it played a crucial role in jury deliberations according to one juror.
Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in 2013, Juror B-37 explained the jury’s “not guilty” decision “because of the heat of the moment and stand your ground.”
The stand-your-ground law was included in the final instructions to the jury prior to deliberation.
One informative tidbit you won’t hear from Iowa Republicans is that states which have passed stand-your-ground laws have also seen an increase in homicides.
A Texas A&M University study by Mark Hoekstra and Cheng Cheng found the states that have passed these laws increased homicides by 8%, which is 600 additional deaths per year.
The study concluded, “…lowering the threshold for the justified use of lethal force results in more of it.”
On the day Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the Stand Your Ground bill into law in 2005, Miami Police Chief John Timoney expressed concern with the potential consequences:
“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house. You’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”
A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found since Florida passed stand-your-ground, homicides have increased by 24.4%. Firearm related homicides have increased by 31.6%.
Not only does the law result in more deaths, multiple studies have (unsurprisingly) shown a racial bias as well.
A 2015 American Bar Association report reads:
“Tampa Bay Times reporter, Chris Davis, testified that the Times’ study found that the race of the victim was the dominant fact that determined the outcome in Florida Stand Your Ground cases. In cases where the race of the victim was white, a suspect claiming self-defense was unlikely to go free; however, in cases where the victim was black, a suspect claiming self-defense was likely to go free.”
The new gun legislation also allows concealed firearms into the state capitol… wait, what the fuck is the reasoning behind this?
“My personal inclination is the taxpayers of Iowa are paying for this building, paying for this chamber, paying for the salaries of all the legislators, so they should have every right to carry a firearm in this building if they so choose,” Rep. Matt Windschitl told The Des Moines Register in February.
Considering the legislature recently voted to defund Iowa’s Planned Parenthood clinics, this mindset clearly doesn’t apply to female taxpayers and their right to choose.
In addition to the Capitol, expect to see more gun-free zones challenged in the Hawkeye State.
Under the new law, residents can now sue if their local government enacts a gun-free zone (public and private K-12 schools are exempt from this insanity).
In 2015, the gun lobby group Iowa Gun Owners successfully stopped the North Liberty city council from even discussing the issue of gun-free zones.
It’s a common tactic for groups like Iowa Gun Owners to present gun free zones as fear mongering tools among their rank and file. The reality is, some people simply feel uncomfortable around firearms.
Groups like IGO subscribe to the premise of John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime. However, multiple studies have shown that’s bullshit. Yale Law School Professor Ian Ayres and Stanford Law School Professor John J. Donohue’s paper analyzing Lott’s premise shows “stronger evidence” of it actually increasing crime.
In what sounds more like a “Call of Duty” expansion pack than legislation, short-barreled shotguns will also be legalized in Iowa under the new law.
Back in 1939, Supreme Court Justice James Clark McReynolds wrote that short-barreled shotguns were not protected under the Second Amendment in the United States v. Miller ruling.
Justice Scalia would iterate Justice McReynolds’ court opinion in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller ruling:
“We therefore read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.”
This isn’t an attack on the Second Amendment; this is calling out a state legislature selling their constituents a package of bad policies… which have now become law.
If Iowa Republicans want to turn the Hawkeye State into Florida so badly, just build a Wizarding World of Harry Potter and call it a day.