Saturday, March 28, 2009

When Good Bills Go Bad

HF 193's fall from grace and it's hoped redemption.
German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck said, “There are two things you don’t want to see being made—sausage and legislation.” Watching the political tug-of-war going on in the Iowa legislature right now over Iowa’s concealed carry permit system, I can see what he meant. Sausage-making usually renders a usable product, however, while legislating might not.
Such is the fate of House File 193, a bill partially reforming Iowa’s weapons permit process. About two weeks ago I included HF193 in my “Funnel Week” report as one of the “good bills” to have survived. How quickly things change.
I reported at that time: “HF 193 would improve the licensing regime in several ways. First, if a sheriff denies a permit he has to give the applicant a written reason why it was denied. Secondly, a denial can be appealed to the Iowa commissioner of public safety (and then to a judge, if needed). Thirdly, it would standardize training requirements statewide. Fourthly, it would grant reciprocity, recognizing weapons permits from other states. Lastly, it would grant immunity to the issuing sheriff or commissioner of public safety for any unlikely harm done by a permit holder.”
That was how the bill read as it was originally introduced by pro-Second Amendment legislator Clel Baudler. However, it emerged from the Iowa House’s Public Safety Committee “sausage factory” much different than it went in. It even came out sporting a new name: HF 746.
HF 746 still leaves discretion on issuing permits to the county sheriff, meaning Iowa will retain its 99 different policies on issuance requirements. It would keep the appeals process from HF 193, but permit denials would be upheld so long as they were “uniformly applied to all nonprofessional permits issued pursuant to standards published by the sheriff[.]”
In other words, all that Iowa’s many anti-Second Amendment sheriffs would have to do is post a list of their “standards” for issuing permits, perhaps requiring applicants be blue-eyed Eskimo amputees who are native-speakers of Portuguese. (It doesn’t say how these standards would be disseminated. Presumably, an 8.5” X 11” photocopy hung in the sheriff’s personal restroom would suffice.) So long as these standards were “uniformly applied” to all applicants, the sheriff doesn’t even need to give you a written reason for the denial and the appeals process would be meaningless.
The new bill was so bad that Gun Owners of America (GOA) said it would consider a legislator’s vote for HF 746 as an “anti-gun” vote. According to GOA, the bill would also:
  • Permanently ban you from getting a permit if you have been convicted of a simple misdemeanor assault or harassment charge (charges that can include such things as "pushing and shoving" cases);
  • Raise the permit age from 18 to 21;
  • Remove some of the confidentiality restrictions on psychiatric records(which means that military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder could be unduly affected by [HF 746]);
  • Require that an abused spouse attempting to get a permit to protect herself from her abusing husband pass a marksmanship test;
  • Specify that the Lautenberg amendment be strictly enforced, even though strict enforcement of the Lautenberg amendment in other jurisdictions has interpreted its language to reach parents who spank their kids, wives who spit at their husbands, and even spouses who inflict "emotional abuse."
Since anti-Second Amendment legislators trashed Baudler’s original bill, a few pro-Second Amendment legislators decided to try to return the favor. Representative Kent Sorenson (who had earlier seen his “Vermont Carry” bill go down in flames) and several others, introduced three new amendments to HF 746.
Again according to GOA, these amendments (labeled H 1184, H 1185, and H 1186) would “reaffirm[…] your right to carry a firearm without the gracious permission of the government” (Sorenson’s Vermont Carry), and include "‘Castle doctrine’ language which would allow you to defend yourself, your family, and others without retreating,” and “[l]anguage to move Iowa toward a 'shall issue' state in which your concealed carry permit could not be withheld for arbitrary reasons[.]”
The pro-Second Amendment group Iowa Carry reports that Speaker of the House Pat Murphy has stated that he will not allow HF 746 to come to a vote on the house floor with these amendments attached. Iowa Carry encourages concerned gun owners to contact Representative Murphy and tell him to allow a vote on HF 746 WITH the amendments H 1184, H 1185, and H 1186. (Remember, without the amendments this is a bad, bad bill. With the amendments, it's okay.)
That's where concealed carry reform in Iowa stands at the moment.

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