Iowa Needs Tougher Gun Control, Advocates Say

By Mike Wiser

Springettsbury, Pa., Police Chief Thomas Hyers holds a bullet at Girard College in Philadelphia, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, after a round table discussion on gun control with Vice President Joe Biden and other elected and law enforcement officials. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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By Richard Pratt

DES MOINES -- A coalition of gun-control advocates made a pitch for tougher gun laws at a Statehouse news conference Monday.

Members of Iowans for Gun Safety, One Million Moms for Gun Control and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa pushed for universal background checks, reduced magazine capacity, a system to flag people who purchase large amounts of ammunition and an assault weapons ban.

The plea comes a day before President Barack Obama’s scheduled State of the Union address, in which he is expected to hit on the topic of gun control. The Iowa group singled out Iowa’s Republican congressional delegation — Sen. Chuck Grassley and Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham — asking them to “put aside partisan politics” and support the control measures.

“Iowans of faith understand the status quo is no longer acceptable,” said Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa. “This is not about gun rights — those will remain intact — this is about public safety.”

The group also singled out two bills introduced in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as particularly egregious to their cause.

One, a proposed constitutional amendment, says the “right to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer and use arms” shall not be infringed or denied.

The other is the so-called “stand your ground” legislation that codifies the right of a gun owner to use deadly force in self-defense or defense of another person.

Both of those bills are in a House Judiciary subcommittee and were last worked on in January.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, said he is “slowly and deliberately” looking at “the plethora of gun bills that have come thorough” the committee. He gave no indication if either of the two bills would come out for a full committee vote.

Iowans for Gun Safety coordinator Carlos Jayne said the group hopes for a federal tightening of gun laws as opposed to state-by-state responses “to reduce the amount of gun running” across state borders.

Asked about the state’s response, Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that he supports gun rights and noted his endorsements from the National Rifle Association. He said the state’s work on mental health legislation and the work that will come out from this summer’s anti-bullying summit should help prevent tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings in Newtown, Conn.

“Those are small steps,” Jayne said when told of Branstad’s response.

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