‘Strict scrutiny’ key to understanding proposed gun amendment on Nov. 8 ballot

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A proposed amendment to Iowa’s constitution regarding gun legislation will be on the back of the Nov. 8 ballot. The legal phrase “strict scrutiny” is crucial to understanding the potential impact of the amendment if adopted.

Here’s what voters will see when they head to the polls:

Shall the following amendment to the Constitution be adopted?

Summary: Provides that the right of the people of Iowa to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

Full Text: Article I of the Constitution of the State of Iowa is amended by adding the following new section: Right to keep and bear arms. Sec. 1A. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.[5]


Public Measure #1

So, what happens if this language— “Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny”— is added to the constitution? What exactly does “strict scrutiny” mean?

“Strict scrutiny is a test that the courts have come up with to be the most demanding test when evaluating whether a constitutional right has been violated,” said Todd Pettys, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa.

Pettys said, if Iowa were to pass this amendment, it would make it very difficult for legislators to pass gun regulations.

“It’s a big deal. It kind of maximally restricts lawmakers and their ability to restrict guns in one way or another,” said Pettys.

He added the amendment would also impact laws already on the books.

“Any of those would be subject to challenge by someone who says, by virtue of this law, even if it’s been on the books for many years, if that law can’t satisfy strict scrutiny, then you can’t apply it to me, that would be a court challenge,” said Pettys.

For advocates of the proposed amendment, that’s the whole point.

John McLaughlin with the Iowa Firearms Coalition said he wants this amendment, “so sometime in the future, our grandkids can say, ‘Hey, grandpa, thanks for what you did clear back back in 2022, to help protect my rights.’”

Connie Ryan with Interfaith Alliance of Iowa said the amendment is not what Iowa needs.

“Yes, you still have to have access to guns because we have second amendment rights in our country. But also it has to be balanced with public safety, and to make sure that the public is as safe as possible,” said Ryan.

How you vote on Public Measure #1 will depend on how you want lawmakers to be able to approach regulating guns in the state.

“This is the whole purpose. By design, it would make it difficult for laws to survive. Not impossible, but very difficult,” said Pettys.