Right to bear arms amendment on Iowa’s Ballot

Jandry Perez Garcia, Staff Writer

Iowans eligible to vote will have an important decision to make on their ballot: on Nov. 8, they will be able to vote in favor or against a proposed amendment to the Iowa state constitution that states that the right to bear arms is a fundamental individual right that will not be infringed upon in Iowa, and that any and all restrictions on that right will be subjected to strict scrutiny. 

In order for it to be added to the Iowa constitution, the proposed amendment needs to be approved by two consecutive general assemblies and ratified by a majority vote of public voters in Iowa.

In March of 2018, the amendment was passed in the Iowa Senate with a 34-15 and 54-42 in the Iowa House of Representatives.

However, the amendment process had to restart the following year, in 2019, due to an oversight from the office of the Iowa secretary of state. According to Ballotpedia, the oversight arose when Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican up for reelection this fall, failed to notify the Iowa Constitution of the amendments that the general assembly approved that year within the required time frame.

Janet Carl, former Iowa state representative, said the addition of strict scrutiny is a big distinction between the language of the Second Amendment in the U.S. Bill of Rights and the one currently being proposed for the Iowa Constitution.

Strict scrutiny is a legal term referring to the application of the concept of judicial review to determine a law’s constitutionality, according to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.

“I think people should not get this mixed up with thinking that a no vote means that a person is against the federal Second Amendment. I’m not talking about being against the right to bear arms. I’m talking about the second part of the amendment which is the level of judicial scrutiny,” Carl said.

Carl said that she believes the discrepancy between what Iowans say they believe in, like what is reflected on the survey statistics, and the current legislation is potentially a result of people voting along party lines.

“[N]o constitutional amendment by its nature is a partisan deal. It’s not put up by a particular party. It’s not related to a particular party,” Carl said.

Carl also said she thinks that gun violence is a “public health problem” and mentioned statistics from the Everytown organization, which takes its data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to that data, Iowa experienced a 60% increase in homicides from 2019 to 2020; an average of 302 Iowans die by gun violence annually. Gun violence is the second highest cause of death for Iowa children, and 78% of gun deaths in Iowa are suicides.

“I really want to urge Grinnell students to register and vote in the coming midterm elections. As I said, this constitutional amendment is really a big deal in Iowa, and students are fully entitled by law to register here and have their say,” Carl said.