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The Scarlet & Black

House Study Bill 133 proposed, would reduce Iowa gun restrictions

House Study Bill 133, which, if passed would enact new regulations concerning the possession of deadly weapons and the use of deadly force, passed out of subcommittee on February 20. The bill introduces provisions that give the state more control over where firearms are allowed and contains a “stand your ground” clause that eliminates the duty to retreat from danger.

Division X of the bill is the most controversial. The section removes the obligation to retreat from any place where one is lawfully present. Additionally, people would be allowed to use force, including deadly force, to defend themselves on the basis of reasonable belief of danger.

This is supported by a section stating that should the person engaged in self-defense be wrong about the amount of danger they were in, they may still have acted lawfully if any reasonable person would have acted similarly. The bill is worrying to some Iowans.

“My general outlook on policies, especially when I don’t have time to look at them in depth, is to ask the following question: is the benefit of this something that I can identify, and is it going to be bigger than any potential cost or harm. It seems to me that the only possible benefit of this would be if people feel like this increases security. I don’t know why else we would want people more freely walking around with guns. I can’t think of any benefit that would surpass the much higher risks of people finding this anxiety inducing, intimidating, and of course, leading to increased shootings,” said Professor Doug Hess ‘91, political science.

Proponents of the bill argue that increased guns mean increased safety, but Hess disagrees.

“Just because somebody imagines in their head that they can be a hero doesn’t mean that they actually know what’s happening, and it doesn’t mean that they are a good shot, and they may shoot the wrong people or interpret the situation the wrong way,” Hess said. “We saw in Kansas a few weeks ago some people killed, some immigrants, based on their appearance. … The benefit [of the bill] strikes me as rare and small, the cost strikes me as high and common.”

The bill allows children of any age to handle handguns under direct supervision. This is a reduction from the previous restriction at fourteen years. The bill does not allow for people under the age of twenty-one to independently possess a handgun.

The bill also allows for guns to be carried on the grounds of the state capital. Despite broad decreases of individual areas’ ability to ban guns, employers, law enforcement centers and other groups are still allowed to ban guns except for those carried by police officers.

“To have people just walking around with guns, how do you distinguish between people who are responsible and irresponsible? Why would you want to take your kids anywhere near a location where people are walking around with guns?” Hess said.

The bill still needs to pass out of committee by March 3 in order to be viable in this government session. If the bill passes out of committee, it will have to be passed by the House of Representatives and repeat the entire process in the Senate before being signed by the Governor.  In that process, the bill will likely undergo numerous revisions.

Ultimately, Iowans must balance personal with public safety.

“Things can go wrong,” Hess said, “but even if that is rare, the cost is enormous. One kid shot or one adult shot is far more likely to happen than this picture of people being heroic and somehow preventing crime.”

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