Iowa Senate guts gun package, passes suppressor reform only

An omnibus measure that would have made sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws roared into the Iowa legislature like a lion in March but left like a lamb after lawmakers sliced away most of the proposed reforms.

The bill, introduced earlier this month, aimed to protect the identity of concealed carry permit holders, repeal a ban on sound suppressors and a host of other reforms. It won quick support of the Republican controlled House, garnering a 75-24 vote on March 10.

However, gun control groups campaigned hard against the measure in the Democrat-led Senate that led to a final 46-4 vote Tuesday from that chamber of an alternative bill that had been stripped of everything but the suppressor language.

“I think what we passed today was a good step, but it clearly falls short of what Iowans expect us to do in protecting law-abiding citizens’ gun rights,” Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, told the Des Moines Register.

As introduced the measure, SF 425, companion to the House bill that passed earlier with broad support, would have sealed the state’s concealed carry records from public disclosure, loosen regulations on youth handgun possession for target shooting and hunting reasons, strengthen straw purchase laws, allow mandatory gun training to be accomplished online and extend the ability of licensed security guards to carry on public school property.

All of these were omitted from the alternative bill that passed the Senate Tuesday.

What did make it was legislation, SF 427, to repeal the state’s near total ban on National Firearms Act-compliant sound suppressors. As the law stands today, possession of a suppressor is a Class D felony, which is punishable by as much as $7,500 in fines and up to five years in prison. Besides allowing private suppressor ownership, the bill contains shall-certify language making it mandatory for local law enforcement to approve legal paperwork — a key part of the process.

Gun rights advocates are crying foul with the apparent bait and switch by Senate lawmakers.

“They purposely waited until the 11th hour to do this, and today they brought this new ‘gun bill’ to the floor for a vote and attempted to pass it with only the parts they wanted in it,” said Kurt Liske of the Iowa Firearms Coalition in a statement. “What this bill is is a calculated attempt to try to buy off Iowa’s firearms community with just small sliver of what was originally intended to be passed.”

Liske explained that the measure would now head to the House. There pro-gun lawmakers can attempt to add in the stripped away language back to the bill, but its a tall order on a short time frame according to Liske, as it would have to, “start the entire committee process all over and pass a subcommittee vote, committee vote, and whole House vote before Friday.”

An alternative would be for the senators to bring the original omnibus crime bill to the floor in that chamber for a vote.

“However based on their actions over the course of the last several weeks, we’re not planning on this happening,” Liske said.