Western Iowa lawmakers plan to protect gun owners' rights
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
More than a month after the Sandy Hook school shooting, the country is still asking a lot of questions about gun control. President Barack Obama has proposed a major overhaul of the nation's gun laws, including renewing a ban on assault weapons, and ensuring background checks for all potential buyers.
The proposals have gun advocates worried about their rights. Two Western Iowa lawmakers plan to introduce legislation this week to arm gun owners with more protections.
A move they say would actually make Iowans safer.
You might think a federal law doesn't need to become a state law too. But Iowa state representative Matt Windschitl disagrees.
"It is imperative that we have it in the state constitution, in case the federal government comes in and amends something and tries to force new gun restrictions down onto the state," said Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley.
He made progress on his right to bear arms proposal last year, passing it through the House, but it stopped short of the Senate. As an amendment to the Iowa constitution, voters would have the last say. Windschitl's brought the legislation back this year, but added a second proposal, a "stand your ground" law.
"If they believe that there is an imminent threat coming, or there is an imminent threat right there, if someone's trying to hurt them, they can defend themselves without having the duty to first retreat," said Windschitl.
Laurens' representative, Republican Tom Shaw is also working on two proposals. The first is a firearms protection act.
"It would not allow federal agents to come into Iowa and confiscate weapons," said Shaw.
Shaw's other proposal would put an end to safe zones around schools. Concealed carry permit holders could carry guns onto school grounds. He says the current signs that ban guns won't stop criminals.
"But what that sign does do, is it keeps responsible, armed citizens from being able to defend themselves," said Shaw.
Wyoming and Texas have introduced similar proposals.
"The more states that introduce this, it sends a clear message to Washington, D.C., to leave our citizens alone," said Shaw.
Shaw says he's getting overwhelming support for the law from his constituents and fellow lawmakers. He and Windschitl understand they face an uphill battle in the democratically controlled Senate.
"I don't know if either one will pass. I'm cautiously optimistic. I would hope that the Senate would at least look at the proposals," said Windschitl.
"It is something that has needed to be done for years. And regardless of the tragedies that have happened, I believe that it is necessary, now more than ever, with the conversations that they're having," said Windschitl.
It's a battle over gun rights and states rights that could take center stage in Des Moines.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says he doesn't foresee any significant changes being made to Iowa's gun laws.
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