DES MOINES — Meredith and Natalie Gibson, two of the many gun enthusiasts who frequented the Capitol to push a comprehensive rewrite of Iowa’s gun laws, marked the occasion of Gov. Terry Branstad signing an expansive gun rights bill by heading to an indoor Johnston shooting range to practice with their parents.
About 50 people gathered at the governor’s formal office Thursday to witness him affixing his signature to House File 517, a wide-ranging bill that included a controversial “stand your ground” provision that states a law-abiding citizen does not have a duty to retreat in a public place before using deadly force when confronted with danger to life or property.
One of the provisions of the bill that took effect immediately allows children below the age of 14 to handle pistols or revolvers under the supervision of an adult parent, guardian or instructor — which directly affected the Gibson sisters ages 13 and 11.
“I think the parents should at least teach their kids safety so nothing bad happens out there,” Meredith Gibson said after receiving one of the pens the governor used to sign the bill into law.
“I am very honored to sign House File 517 into law,” Branstad told the assembled group of supporters. “I know this is an important and significant piece of legislation for people that support the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“I have always been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and this legislation makes Iowa one of the most pro-Second Amendment states in the country. Expanding the freedoms and solidifying the constitutional rights of Iowans should always be a goal for our state,” he added.
Other provisions of the bill pre-empt local ordinances restricting gun rights; create a uniform permit to carry weapons; provide for five-year permits to acquire handguns rather than single-year permits and immediately create confidentiality for those with permits; legalize short-barreled rifles and shotguns; and allow those with permits to carry handguns in the Iowa Capitol and other public buildings.
“This is a great victory,” said Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition. “Overall, this is a very comprehensive reform and a lot of it is long overdue and I’m just very pleased. It’s a great day.
“I don’t think it’s going to change the nature of Iowa at all,” he added. “It just respects and protects some of the rights that Iowans have that have been overlooked.”
Not everyone saw Thursday’s development as a victory.
Amber Gustafson of the Iowa Chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America issued a statement expressing concern that Iowa joining the ranks of states with “stand-your-ground” laws would result in a higher homicide rate as she said it has in other locations.
“We’re also disappointed that the bill signed today includes punitive pre-emption, a proposal that will expose Iowa cities and towns to lawsuits just for passing or enforcing local public safety laws,” she said in her statement. “Iowa law enforcement leaders raised clear concerns about punitive pre-emption, and we’re disappointed the final version of the bill doesn’t address those concerns.”
Gustafson applauded the fact that Iowa legislators did not repeal Iowa’s background check requirement for handgun sales and permit requirement for carrying concealed handguns. “In the end, when it came to those portions of the bill, common sense prevailed,” she said.