Editorial Summary: Iowa | Iowa News

Des Moines Register. June 18, 2022.

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Everyone claims they want “something” done about the circumstances that led to the shooting massacre of 19 school children and two educators in Texas last month.

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In a familiar pattern, “something” is not happening.

The massacre involved questions about safe entry to schools and the competence of the police, but much of the debate focused on this question: Can laws reduce the likelihood of dangerous people obtaining instruments of mass murder without compromising the Bill of Rights? The response from Congress for years has been a resounding “no”.

In Iowa, we have an opportunity this year to do “something” without the help of our government officials: At the polls in November, we can reject a proposed constitutional amendment that could thwart even broadly grassroots efforts to protect Iowans from gun violence. .

Even maintaining the status quo in this way would count as a victory for protecting lives. A “no” vote would indicate that most Iowans want to preserve at least the ability to limit access to lethal weapons and do not want to tie the hands of lawmakers and the judiciary.

Proponents pointed out that adding “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” to the Iowa constitution would bring us into line with nearly every other state by including a mirror of the second federal amendment in the state charter. It is very good.

But the amendment would do more, mandating that any restrictions on gun rights be subject to “strict control”. This legal term requires courts to evaluate laws with the utmost skepticism, declaring them unconstitutional unless they serve a “compelling governmental interest” and are “narrowly tailored” to achieve that goal.

This provision would complicate even modest regulations. For example, suppose lawmakers, in response to two executions outside a church in Ames, wish to make it less likely that those suspected or convicted of domestic violence will be able to shoot their victims. A tough business, to be sure – people who assault partners could very well ignore requests to surrender their weapons, and the accused still has a right to due process. But under tight scrutiny, even if the people’s elected representatives thoughtfully balance these competing interests and reach a solution in a bid to save lives, their efforts could be sidelined for failing to meet all the requirements of the test. judicial.

Of course, existing regulations could also be challenged.

Three other states – Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri – already require strict control of gun restrictions. Todd Pettys, a law professor at the University of Iowa, concluded in a 2019 law review essay that strict control changes turn out to be less meaningful than expected, with courts in those states sometimes finding that strict control protections did not apply in certain circumstances. In addition, courts in Louisiana and Missouri applied strict control and always upheld laws prohibiting criminals from owning firearms.

It’s a little reassuring. On the other hand, when the United States Supreme Court heard arguments last year about New York State’s discretionary gun licensing system, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked a Justice Department lawyer about the restrictions on people with mental illness or convicted of crimes: “Can any of them pass strict scrutiny on their face?” “I don’t know,” replied acting solicitor general Brian Fletcher.

Iowa doesn’t need to risk the possibility of a dangerous outcome here.

There are limits to freedom of expression. There can and must be limits to the right to bear arms.

Over the past twelve years, the Legislative Assembly has progressively removed barriers to the acquisition, travel and use of weapons. Lawmakers stripped sheriffs of their discretion to deny gun permits and then removed permit requirements, and allowed the use of deadly force in more situations.

Iowans today are free to obtain, keep, and carry firearms and rifles. When children are slaughtered by guns – in Des Moines, Texas, across the country – it’s fair to wonder if a modest grant of that freedom could help avert tragedy.

We should not make this debate more difficult than it already is. The choice is ours. Vote no on this amendment.

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