Iowa’s take on gun control

As another school shooting captures media attention, potential legislative solutions for reducing violent crime have once again come to dominate the news cycle. Gun reform is a hotly contested topic, with liberals pushing for stricter gun control laws and conservatives arguing against compromising their Second Amendment rights. The deeply partisan nature of this issue has created both a public and congressional impasse, with a majority of prospective bills never even arriving at the floor for a vote. In the wake of the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, current laws regarding the sale and possession of firearms are the subject of intense public scrutiny, while lawmakers on Capitol Hill are increasingly being held accountable for divisive policies.

Individual states must comply with the minimum federal requirements for gun use and acquisition but are free to enact further constraints, such as Hawaii’s law that mandates proof of safety training before purchasing a gun. However, the state of Iowa has done relatively little to impose stricter gun control measures like extensive background checks. According to the NRA-ILA, Iowa state permits are not needed to own handguns, shotguns or rifles. Both concealed and open carry of firearms are permitted in Iowa; it is even legal to carry a weapon in a restaurant.

A major proponent of gun deregulation, Republican senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has been instrumental in shaping weapons restrictions at both the federal and state levels. Grassley was given an “A” rating by the National Rifle Association, indicating that he strongly supports minimal limitations of gun rights. According to OnTheIssues, an online database that catalogs politicians’ voting records and publicly voiced viewpoints on a wide range of affairs, Grassley voted against banning high-capacity magazines of over ten bullets and in favor of loosening license checks at gun shows. In addition, the senator voted “yes” on a 2005 bill forbidding lawsuits against gun manufacturers, an act that would, among other things, “exempt lawsuits brought against individuals who knowingly transfer a firearm that will be used to commit a violent or drug-trafficking crime.”

Grassley’s pro-gun rights stance is reflected in a constituency that favored Republican candidate Donald Trump over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by almost ten points in the 2016 presidential election. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll found, “Fifty-six percent of Iowa adults say additional controls won’t lead to fewer mass shootings.” Despite metropolises like Des Moines and Iowa City backing Democratic agendas, Iowa’s rural population leans staunchly Republican and ardently supports the decisions of elected officials like Grassley.

However, with the recent rise in mass shootings, the political discourse is shifting. Iowa’s lenient gun control laws may be threatened in the coming months, as frustrated students and parents across the country are demanding reform.

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