The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon voted 10 to 5 to advance HF 2502, a bill that preempts local governments from passing ordinances or policies restricting Iowans from lawful possession of their firearms.

HF 2502 passed in the Iowa House late February by a 52 to 44 party-line vote.

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.

State Senator Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, took the most time during the debate in committee to discuss his opposition to the bill. He first addressed the cost to cities and counties who want to implement a gun-free zone in their buildings but would be required to have security and screening. 

State Senator Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who ran the bill in committee, countered that all those policies do is keep law-abiding citizens from bringing in their firearms. Gun-free policies do not prevent someone who intends to harm others out of the building.

“The bill simply says that if you take away someone’s constitutional, God-given right, you then, that would be the building or the local subdivision, you then must take on the responsibility of protecting that person because you’ve denied them the right to protect themselves. If you’re going to do that, you need to ensure that somebody else does not have a firearm in there, and that takes a metal detector and personnel. And you also need to provide the means to protect that person proactively, which means armed security,” he said.

Schultz said if you allow law-abiding citizens to bring in weapons, then the cost of the bill is “zero.”

Bisignano said he is trying to raise his grandchildren to understand that people are basically good, and the bill makes the community “frightful” for children.

He said he wished the legislature would “finally have some respect for local government.” He also accused Senate Republicans of hating cities like Des Moines.

“I don’t know why you hate the city of Des Moines so much when it supplies so much to the state, which is the heart. But every chance you get, you find some way to hurt this community, and you do it with pleasure,” Bisignano said.

He complained about the direction of the state after carry permits became easier to obtain.

“Iowa is becoming a gun-slinging and cowboy state,” Bisignano said. “We have the Second Amendment right. Everyone I know who wants to carry a gun carries one. A lot of people have guns that I don’t like and shouldn’t have a gun. That is what we have police for; we have law enforcement for, not the Iowa Legislature.”

State Senator Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, asked Bisignano what he believes should be done to protect Iowans.

“I don’t believe it’s the supplemental foods, or it’s the senior meal site (that) has a direct responsibility to give you security. They set their site up with supervisors, just like anywhere you go. I don’t go anywhere on a Saturday to do my errands with the intent that the woman in Victoria’s Secret is carrying a gun. I don’t go to a mall to shop, and I expect people to be armed in there waiting to kill somebody,” he answered.

“We’ve done everything we should do to have our police ready, armed, and able to respond to incidents. I don’t think it’s society’s responsibility to guarantee that you never will come across violence,” Bisignano continued.

He asked Schultz if there was any state law requiring a carry permit holder to be proficient. Schultz said that there wasn’t and that it would be unconstitutional. 

Bisignano complained about that.

“There you go on a constitutional mandate to know how to operate a killing machine, my constitutional right to be stupid enough to buy a gun and carry it everywhere I want to go once I get a permit to carry, correct?” he asked. 

Schultz said that a handgun is an inanimate tool, and pointed out the fundamental difference in their thinking about guns.

“But that’s that’s our fundamental difference is that you have no faith, no trust, no consideration for the citizen to take it upon himself to know what he’s going to do. You cannot force a mandate on a constitutional right. Otherwise, it’s not right. And it’s a test and permission required,” Schultz answered.

“What scares me is when government strips away a right, but says we are not going to defend you with it,” State Senator Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, said in defense of the bill. “When I walk into my county courthouse in Jasper, and they have a sticker saying this is a no guns zone, but you walked in here, and someone pulls out a weapon and start shooting at you. You have no right to defend yourself. I’ve now empowered government to take away my right provide me no protection under the law.”

“What scares me is the fact we’ve had this conversation. We put it before the state, and we have it in a constitutional amendment coming forward. We still have local governments that find ways to sneak around it, slap a sticker on the wall, make a political statement, if that’s where that conversation goes, but then provide no safety under the law,” he added.

Nunn said the bill requires a baseline of security for places determined to be a gun-free zone.

State Senator Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said the committee overlooked who owns the public buildings in Des Moines and other communities in the state.

“We’ve heard about the cost of what this is going to cost our cities and counties, and we have 24 buildings that this bill is going to impact in Des Moines. Who owns these buildings? We make it sound like the mayor that owns it or the city council that owns it or the county supervisors. It’s the people, the people who pay for it. We own those buildings. We own this building,” he said.

“And we have governments instituted at the local level, who are restricting a fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear arms in their buildings. No different than your homes. And so what we’re saying and I think it’s more than reasonable, I’d like to see that we just you can’t do it at all. But, hey, we’re going to allow some local control, you want to do it, you’re going to have to provide the security. If you’re going to restrict my ability to self-preservation, to protect myself from some other lunatic that’s in the building, then you better be prepared to protect me. I think that’s absolutely reasonable. These are, again, the people’s buildings, not governments. We own the building,” he concluded.

State Senators Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, Garrett, Chapman, Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, Nunn, Schultz, Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, and Zach Whiting, R-Spirit Lake, voted to pass the bill.

State Senators Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, Bisignano, Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, and Rich Taylor, D-Mt. Pleasant, voted against the bill. 

Watch the debate in a video provided by Iowa Firearms Coalition below:

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