Gun safety law change could be problematic


To the Editor:

Iowa voters this coming November 8th are going to be asked to vote on an amendment to the Iowa Constitution on the issue of guns. Supporters of the amendment claim that it would simply add the same language that is already contained in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, there are highly significant legal differences in the wording, with the last sentence being of the most concern. The sentence in question reads: “Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” Those final two words “strict scrutiny” might sound innocent enough, but from a legal standpoint would likely have significant negative impacts on Iowa’s current and future gun safety laws.

In the field of Federal and Iowa Constitutional law the term strict scrutiny means that any law or regulation increasing gun safety which a future Iowa Legislature might want to enact would be subject to the most stringent level of legal review and could prove extremely difficult to pass. This would include gun safety laws supported by a large majority of Iowa citizens.

In other words, passage of this amendment could well mean that the hands of Iowa legislators, courts, and the public would be tied when it came to future attempts to deal with problems associated with gun violence and efforts to protect public safety.

One troubling aspect of this is the question as to why the term strict scrutiny was included in the propose amendment in the first place. I do not find that such language is contained in any other recent Iowa Constitutional amendments.

Have the proponents of this amendment come out with an honest, careful, and widespread explanation to Iowa voters on just what it is they are voting on? Or is this legal wording included in the hope that very few voters will understand the impact of approving this amendment? If so, then this tactic would amount to a particularly odious deception because it involves the most significant type of vote you can put in front of Iowans, i.e., an amendment to their Constitution.

If this amendment as proposed is to a large degree an attempt to pull a clever “gotcha” on the people of Iowa, it would be far preferable to vote the amendment down, until and unless it is presented in a more open and honest fashion.

This old country lawyer is bothered enough by such an attempted subterfuge that he is motivated to send this letter to the Editor.

Jerry Denning

Attorney-at-law, retired.

Iowa City