Iowa legislative leaders doubt state's gun laws will change in wake of school shootings

'Loophole' on gun sales at Iowa State Fairgrounds could be closed

James Q. Lynch
Published: December 20 2012 | 9:02 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:35 am in
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Despite renewed interest in gun control in the wake of the recent school shooting that left 26 people dead, Iowa legislative leaders see little likelihood of legislation curtailing gun ownership.

Other than possibly closing a “loophole” allowing gun sale shows at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Republican and Democratic leaders shied away from calling for any changes in current gun laws.

Recent legislative changes have led to an increase in the number of Iowans with permits to carry concealed weapons. In the GOP-controlled House, lawmakers have called for expanding Iowans’ rights to use guns in self-defense.

The most school recent shooting may have blunted prospects for continuing that discussion.

“We had that debate last year … I don’t know if we’ll have it again this year,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said earlier this week.

Rather than focus on gun laws, lawmakers need to make sure Iowa has a mental health system “that catches people who are in crisis and guides them away from these kinds of horrible tragedies,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.

“The more important discussion will be about how we deal with mentally ill people and how we deliver mental health services,” he said.

Rather than changes in gun laws, the discussion is more likely to focus on whether schools’ plans for responding to violence are adequate, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said.

Dix called for a review of policies “to make sure students are safe and parents can expect they will be safe in those schools.”

Likewise, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, isn’t interested in a “big ideological debate” but finding “proven ways” of strengthening school safety measures.

The fact Connecticut has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation suggests to Paulsen if a person with mental health issues wants to get a gun “I don’t think passing a gun law will necessarily prevent that.”

Gov. Terry Branstad also noted the state has a begun comprehensive revamp of the mental health service delivery system. He plans to proposal anti-bullying measures to the 2013 legislative session that he hopes will address some of the root causes of violent behavior.

The idea of arming school personnel appears to have little support. Hogg called it a “naïve” approach to school safety. While it may be part of the discussion, Paulsen said the solution “probably goes beyond that.”

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