DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa House passed HF 2502 last Thursday by a party-line 52 to 44 vote. The bill expands a law passed in 2017 that preempts local governments from passing ordinances or policies restricting Iowans from lawful possession of their firearms.
The bill does five things.
First, the bill forbids county zoning commissions, county boards of supervisors, city zoning commissions, or city councils to impose regulations and restrictions on a person seeking to build or improve a shooting range more stringent than state law.
Second, while state law already forbids cities and counties from passing ordinances that regulate the ownership, possession, transfer, transportation, registration, and licensing of firearms when lawful under state law. HF 2502 expands the language in the law to cover any policy beyond ordinances, as well as includes the modification of firearms in the list of things local government can’t regulate when lawful under state law. Also, the bill expands state law not just to include firearms, but also add firearm attachments and other weapons to the language in the Iowa Code.
Third, HF 2502 requires city and counties to provide armed security should they declare their buildings to be gun-free zones.
Fourth, the bill prevents cities and counties from regulating the storage of weapons and ammunition and makes any ordinance or policy enforced in cities or counties void by July 1, 2020.
Fifth, HF 2502 states that any judicial branch order forbidding firearms in a county courthouse or joint-use facility is unenforceable except courtrooms, court offices, or buildings exclusively used by the judicial branch.
Most of the Democrats who opposed the bill did so on local control grounds.
“Under the bill as amended, it would be illegal for a local government to enact policy that is inconsistent with state laws. Policies are not laws policies are not ordinances. A person who violates a policy cannot be jailed cannot be fined. Policies reflect the values of a local government and, more specifically, the values of the citizens that the members of the local government represent,” State Rep. Mary Lynn Wolfe, D-Clinton, argued.
“Our first priority is in should always be the safety and welfare of our constituents. And as a legislative body, we also believe that, in general, local control is preferred over dictates made by the state. I’m afraid house file 2502 presents a safety concern for Iowans and, at the same time, takes away local control from officials who know what’s best in the interest of their communities,” State Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, said.
“It should be up to the local administrators to make policy for their community and not the state. This statewide mandate is an assault on local control. And it is an insult to our local elected officials. One size does not fit all when it comes to public safety. We have to understand that,” State Rep. Timothy Kacena, D-Sioux City, added.
State Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, who is a carry permit holder, said local officials in his community were concerned with the cost of providing armed security.
“The challenge that they face and the concerns that they’ve expressed with me come from the fact that you’re absolutely right when it comes to the courthouse, but one of the concerns we have is they still are responsible for the building. And if the judicial branch comes to them, and says we demand security for these rooms, again, it’s their facility, their fears, this unintended consequences; it’s still going to cost them to have to hire somebody and secure that, based on the judicial branch is requesting of them,” he said.
Breckenridge said the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department said it would cost the county between $150-172,000 to have armed security and screening.
State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said that Second Amendment and even First Amendment rights are conditional.
“The constitutional right to own a firearm comes with important responsibilities regarding community safety and, therefore, must come with conditions. Just as the First Amendment rights come with conditions, our communities need tools to ensure public safety,” she said.
She stated that counties and cities that can’t afford armed security and screening would have to allow citizens to carry, something she said would diminish public safety.
“Let’s talk about what firearms attachments, modifications, or other weapons we might find in these above government and public buildings. An AR-15? A large-capacity magazine? A grenade? What about a trigger activator? I can’t find a definition for ‘other weapon.’ Is my imagination running wild? Or is it possible that this bill would allow all of these weapons into our public buildings?” Wessel-Kroeschell argued.
State Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, was the floor manager for HF 2502. He responded to the Democrats’ arguments.
He first noted that the word “policy” was already in the state code, so the bill was not unprecedented.
Holt shot down Wessel-Kroeschell’s arguments by noting that grenades are already illegal under federal law that regulates explosives. They are also prohibited under state law. He also said that bump stocks, which he believed she meant when she said “trigger activator” is also banned by federal law.
He addressed local control concerns.
“Local control is an important principle. But there are also areas of law and regulation that logically must be on the state level. Somebody mentioned minimum wage, that’s logically got to be on the state level. Another one is the area of firearms, let’s face it, a patchwork of county and city ordinances would be eminently confusing and extremely difficult for our citizens,” Holt argued.
He addressed requiring local governments to provide armed security and screening if they declare a gun-free zone.
“If a political subdivision decides to restrict the Second Amendment rights of its citizens in a particular building or structure, then most certainly, it should be incumbent upon them to ensure compliance and provide security since that political subdivision has removed a major portion of the right of self-defense for those entering that restricted area. I would argue this is a moral obligation since the political subdivision has denied a God-given right, and it should be a legal responsibility as well,” Holt stated.
“House File 2502 is about freedom and liberty. It is also about the health and safety of our children and our families. It is a bill that addresses the safety and welfare of our citizens by ensuring their right of self-defense against sick individuals that would kill innocent people. It is about my right, as a parent, to be prepared to defend my wife and my children, my family. It is about everyone in this chambers right and Iowans across the states right to carry a firearm if they so choose to defend what they love without facing a labyrinth of different or ordinances and mandates as they move about our state. Second Amendment rights are sacred. We must continue to ensure the right to keep and bear arms is consistently protected throughout the state by regulating Second Amendment issues on the state level,” he concluded.
Listen to the full debate: