DES MOINES, Iowa – SJR 1, a constitutional amendment that will enshrine Iowans’ right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa Constitution, passed ten to four in the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee late Thursday afternoon.
(Watch the committee debate in the video above.)
The amendment passed last year during the 88th General Assembly. It will need to pass both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate before voters decide whether to ratify the amendment or not. The Iowa House Judiciary Committee approved their companion bill last week.
The amendment’s language reads, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”
As The Iowa Torch has reported before, the primary objection by Democrats to the amendment is the strict scrutiny requirement. Tuesday’s committee debate was no different.
“I just want to clarify that what this is, is not the Second Amendment, they are asking to put in the Iowa Constitution,” State Senator Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said. “So I want to make sure that Iowans know what this constitutional amendment does is much, much different than the Second Amendment.”
She added. Iowa Senate Democrats are in favor of putting Second Amendment language in Iowa’s Constitution.
“This is not the Second Amendment. This is something that will put into question every piece of gun safety legislation that our state has put in place to protect Iowans, both gun owners, and non-gun owners. So make no mistake, this is not the Second Amendment. This is a radical, extreme piece of legislation that is before us today,” Petersen said.
State Senator Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, echoed Petersen’s criticism.
“This is an extreme, radical, proposed constitutional amendment that’s going to strike things out of Iowa’s Code like simple background checks, the requirement to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon,” he said.
Bolkcom went beyond criticism of the strict scrutiny language.
“You know, you know who is going to like this amendment. The unorganized militia is going to love this amendment. They love to bear arms, they want to get more arms, and this doesn’t describe what arms are. Can it be a grenade launcher? Can it be IUDs? (It) can be anything, be long knives, swords, arms, or a lot of different things in the unorganized militia, the folks that tried to overthrow our government a couple weeks ago. They’re going to be all for this constitutional amendment.” he said.
Federal law already restricts grenade launchers and explosive devices, and the Second Amendment also does not definite “arms.”
“People that don’t like the government want to overthrow the government. That’s who wants these arms. So this constitutional amendment is going to make us all unsafe. It’s going to make it impossible for us to have any kind of gun safety,” Bolkcom concluded.
State Senator Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who managed the bill, gave closing remarks stating that the Second Amendment has been weakened in several situations.
He said lawmakers should leave this up to voters.
“This allows the voters of Iowa to decide. The voters of Iowa will decide how important their Second Amendment rights it is (sic). This is a high standard,” Zaun said, noting the bill has been around and debated for the last six years.
He also addressed Bolkcom’s statement about the Capitol riot.
“I do not condone what happened in Washington, DC. It was disgusting. This bill is not about that. This bill is allowing Iowans to decide how important their Second Amendment rights are,” Zaun concluded.
The bill is now eligible for floor debate before the entire Iowa Senate.