Iowa voters to decide on new gun rights amendment on Election Day

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 11:47 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Next week, when voters in Iowa head to the polls, they will vote on a new amendment to the state constitution.

The very last item on Iowa ballots will be Amendment 1, or the “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” Amendment. That question reads as follows:

This proposed amendment will add Second Amendment rights to the state constitution while subjecting any regulation of gun rights to what is known as “strict scrutiny,” in the eyes of the court.

According to University of Iowa Law professor Todd Petty, this level of review is the highest when it comes to the law. It requires the government to show a compelling interest in implementing a regulation.

“Among lawyers, it’s a very familiar phrase, but probably very unfamiliar among non-lawyers,” Pettys said.

In the context of this ballot measure, he said, for instance, the public potentially being uneasy around firearms wouldn’t be enough to withstand strict scrutiny.

“The fact that people feel discomfort, that’s probably not going to be compelling,” Pettys said. “Anxiety is not going to be deemed to be a compelling government interest under this amendment, but saving lives would be.”

John McLaughlin, chair of the Iowa Firearms Coalition is an advocate of the measure. He said this level of probing protects Iowans’ rights to own guns regardless of what a federal court may rule.

“We kind of look at it as a belt and suspenders approach,” McLaughlin said. “The US Constitution is the belt, but if the belt goes away, at least I will still have the suspenders to keep second amendment rights still in place.”

Meanwhile, Connie Ryan, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa opposes the measure. She said the strict scrutiny part of the proposal, oversteps the Second Amendment.

“We will have less strong laws on the books,” Ryan said. “It means that laws could be challenged and overturned, and so that it will put Iowans at risk. This is a public safety issue. It is a public health issue.”

Pettys said if this were to pass, current laws could be overturned, and laws regarding future technology will be difficult to implement.

“There will may be some laws that survive a strict scrutiny analysis from the courts,” Pettys said. “The odds are stacked against regulation and that’s the whole point of the amendment.”

The amendment would read as follows, if passed:

If approved, Iowa would join 44 other states, including Illinois, in having the right to bear arms in their state constitution.

Only a simple majority of voters need to approve of the measure for the amendment to pass.