Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anti-Second Amendment Bill Passes Iowa Senate

Thursday the anti-gun and anti-due process Senate File 2357 easily passed in the Iowa Senate with only 11 Senators voting against it. I'm a bit late writing about this and the boys at Between Two Rivers and Iowa Patriots have covered it more thoroughly than I.

According to Iowa Gun Owners, the bill would:

  • Allow virtually anyone who knows you to apply to the court for a no-contact order – even if no physical contact has ever occurred between the two of you. As condition of this no-contact order you would be required to hand over all of your firearms and ammunition.
  • Not require that you even be present at the court hearing. This bill does not even ensure that you have the right to even have legal counsel present or a chance to confront your accusers in a court of law.
  • Allow an anti-gun court to decide who is qualified to take possession of your firearms should they decide to take them from you.
  • Allow this same court to decide that no one is qualified to take your guns and order the sheriff’s department to seize them, and make you pay the sheriff for the right to lose your guns! Yeah, you get to pay the government $50 per gun that they seize from you!
  • Declare you a felon, and unable to ever own guns again, if you fail to turn over so much as a single .22 cartridge.

All of this is done in the name of "combating domestic abuse." Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller gleefully approved the Senate's passage: "This law will help prevent women, men and children from being terrorized, maimed and killed by violent domestic abusers. It will only remove guns from domestic abusers. This is a big victory for public safety[.]"

I wouldn't count on it "only remov[ing] guns from domestic abusers." As I've written about the federal Lautenberg Amendment, feel-good legislation like this ensnares more innocuous parties than deranged stalkers.

I think that the blogger strandediniowa at Between Two Rivers summed it up best: "If the women's groups that lobbied in favor of SF2357, could possibly put some effort into making it easier for women to purchase and carry firearms for their protection, maybe a few less abusers would be stalking their victims."

Let's hope we can kill this bill in the House of Representatives.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Commission Says: "Regulate, Don't Ban Everclear"

In my post Everclear and Present Danger I wrote that the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission was mulling over whether to ban or increase regulations on the sale of highly concentrated alcohol (HCA), such as Everclear, after a Drake University student was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning from overindulging on it. Thursday the commission announced its recommendations. Although they did not recommend an outright ban on HCA, their recommendations can hardly be seen as a victory for those who support freedom of choice for Iowa consumers.

IABC's website lists the commission's four recommendations as follows:

  1. Limit products over 100 proof to one listed size [750 ml for Everclear]
  2. Look into drafting a rule to require registration (similar to pseudoephedrine) for products over 100 proof
  3. Education - investigate opportunities for education on HCA in college communities, as well as design educational materials to be applied to bottles for distribution.
  4. Limit products to no higher than 151 proof

Since the recommendations all increase government regulation, no doubt they will be pencil-whipped through and adopted quickly. (In contrast, any deregulation would require an uphill, tooth and nail battle.)

Supporters of regulating Everclear and other HCA's no doubt would argue that the state has a compelling interest in doing so since the state often has to assist those who injure themselves or others or ruin their own lives abusing the stuff. That is another perfect example of how government "assistance" always begets government intrusion into our lives. (In order to get rid of the intrusion, we must get rid of the assistance as well.)

Another troubling aspect of such regulation, if we follow the government's logic to its ultimate conclusion: If the state of Iowa can't trust its adult citizens with such a mundane decision as what size bottle of booze to buy, how can they trust us with self-governance, arms bearing, child rearing or any other activity upon which a free society depends?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Honey Creek Resort: Taxpayers Stuck With Bill For Foreseeable Future

At a time when Iowa State Troopers and court officers are forced to take unpaid furloughs to save money, leaving citizens without those services, Iowa taxpayers will have to make payments on an indoor waterpark, 18-hole golf course and the other amenities at Iowa’s government-owned Honey Creek “luxury resort” for at least the next five years. So said representatives of the state’s Department of Natural Resources to Iowa lawmakers on Wednesday, according to a recent Des Moines Register article.

In 2006 the state issued $33.5 million in bonds (borrowed $33.5 million) to partially pay for the new $58 million resort. According to the Register article, the state planned to pay back that debt with revenues from the resort itself. Unfortunately, revenues have been much less than planned. In it’s first ten months of operation the resort lost $1.7 million.

Projections through 2014 show that Iowa taxpayers will be on the hook for $700,000 to $900,000 a year to cover the resort’s bond payments. (That could fund the yearly salaries of about 15 Troopers, by the way.) Since government officials tend to present the rosiest scenarios possible, the actual yearly amount borne by taxpayers actually may be much higher.

Let’s keep this example in mind the next time we hear a politician saying that any government project (such as healthcare "reform") will “pay for itself.”

Related posts:
Honey Creek Money Pit (January 2010)
Privatize Honey Creek Resort (July 2009)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One Step Closer To Medical Marijuana In Iowa

In a victory for common sense, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy unanimously voted today to recommend that legislators reclassify marijuana from "Schedule I" (banned) to "Schedule II," which would allow medical use with a prescription.

The Des Moines Register reports: "The board also recommended the state set up a broad task force, including patients, medical professionals and law enforcement officers, to come up with a way to safely implement a medical marijuana program.

"Marijuana proponents cheered after the vote was taken, but they acknowledged that hurdles remain before the drug could become available to patients.

"'This is a big thing. This is momentum,' said Carl Olsen, one of the measure's main Iowa proponents. He said he didn't expect legislators to consider the matter until next year's legislative session."

A recent Des Moines Register poll showed that 64% of Iowans support medical marijuana with a doctor's approval.

If Iowa legislators soon pass a law legalizing medical marijuana, this would not only be a victory for suffering patients, but for states' rights under the Tenth Amendment as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Healthcare Sovereignty Bill In Iowa

I normally don't post emails that I get, but since this one was extremely time sensitive and may interest regular readers of this blog, I've included the following "action alert" from Iowa Campaign For Liberty (CFL). It deals with the "Growing Movement to Nullify National Health Care." For a quick overview of the state sovereignty/10th Amendment issue, read my interview with 10th Amendment Center founder Michael Boldin. -Ben

Action Item - State Sovereignty Legislation

During Iowa’s legislative session Bills are assigned to committees. In order for a Bill to become law it must first be released out of committee.

This FRIDAY, February 12, @ 5:00 pm is the deadline for having Bills out of committee. If a Bill has not been released by a committee by then it is considered “DEAD” and NOTHING will become of it.

Iowa CFL has been working with Legislators to pass several Bills that relate to Health Care and/or State Sovereignty. One in Particular is HF 2177.

HF 2177 simply states, “This bill establishes that no law shall restrict a person’s right to choose private health care systems or private health care plans.” This Bill is designed to establish Iowa law that says the federal government cannot dictate to private citizens what they choose to do regarding their health care.

CFL urges all of its members to email, call and/or visit all 21 House Human Resources committee members and urge their support for HF 2177.

Here is some suggested language for you to “cut and paste” into your own email:

Dear Committee Member,

I am emailing you regarding HF 2177. This Bill is about health care, which is very personal to me. I want to insure that I will always be able to choose my own health care plan; if I choose one at all.

I’m calling for your support on this Bill and for you to insure that it comes out of Committee before the deadline on Friday, February 12, at 5:00 pm.

This Bill is important in that it will insure that the overreaching federal government will not be able to dictate any part of my health care. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that each individual state has the authority to over rule federal mandates not enumerated in the constitution.

So in part, your support for this Bill, is simply re-affirming your oath of office; in that you will uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Here’s the list of email addresses for all 21 House Human Resources committee members:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

You can email them as a group or individually if you want for a more personal touch.

If one of these committee members happens to be your own Representative (you can use this link to find your state representative: ) you will be more likely to get their attention, so send them their own individual email from you and feel free to insert this or similar language after the first sentence:

As a constituent in your District I will surely be watching your action on this Bill. If you are unable to support this Bill you will surely not receive my vote in this upcoming election.

Phone calls (or even a personal visit) to the capitol are also effective. The House switchboard number is 515-281-3221

Your action is greatly appreciated and necessary.

Ron Truhlar
Campaign for Liberty/State Sovereignty Co-coordinator

Monday, February 8, 2010

Analysis of Iowa Weapons Bills

Okay, I’ve read the Iowa Gun Owner’s “Vermont Carry” bill and the NRA’s “shall issue” bill for Iowa. (Working extra hours at my real job and having a sick wife and kid, it took a while to get them read and something written.) The first thing I noticed was that the IGO bill was only 5 pages while the NRA’s was 15. Sometimes good things come in small packages. I’ll spend more time here on the NRA bill for the simple fact that it was longer and more complex than the IGO bill.

IGO Vermont Carry- (House File 2241/ Senate File 473)
This bill is simplicity itself. It would basically repeal the Iowa law that makes it an aggravated misdemeanor for a law-abiding citizen to carry a weapon without a permit. Any Iowan who could legally possess a gun could legally carry it publicly, openly or concealed, without a carry permit.

The bill would make it so “a person who goes armed with a dangerous weapon with the intent to commit a crime of violence commits a class ‘D’ felony.” [Emphasis added.]

Permits to carry weapons would still be available to those who wanted them, perhaps to carry weapons in other states that recognize Iowa permits, for instance. The bill states that the issuing officer “shall” issue such permits to applicants that are not otherwise legally disqualified. The permits would last for five-years, as opposed to the current one year. Besides those two issues, the carry permit system would be much the same as the current one.

It tweaked a few other details in laws that rubbed up against the old permit law. The main point of the bill, however, is that no permit would be required for peaceable Iowans to carry their arms within the state. Anyone who believes that a “right” that you’ve got to ask permission for is no right at all has got to like that.

NRA Shall Issue- (House File 2255)

This bill would reform Iowa’s permit to carry system in several ways. There is a lot of items in this bill that would definitely improve Iowa‘s licensing regime, and also some things not to like. I’ve divided it into:

HF 2255- The Good

Firstly, the bill would require that the issuing authority “shall” issue the permit to qualified applicants. Currently, Iowa sheriffs “may issue” the permit but are not required to do so. It would also increase the longevity of the permit from one year to five.

The bill would also take steps to protect the personally-identifying information of permit holders. Currently the name and address of permit-holders is public information. Some newspapers in Iowa routinely publish lists and locations of permit-holders. So much for privacy. HF 2255 would mandate “that the release of such information does not reveal the identity of any applicant or permit holder.”

HF 2255 would standardize training requirements statewide. Iowans who already had a permit would be grandfathered in. Training requirements for new applicants could be satisfied by: military or law-enforcement training, National Rifle Association certified training courses, or “participation in any organized shooting competition.”

The bill would also allow Iowa to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states, to recognize each others carry permits. While 14 other states currently recognize Iowa’s permits, Iowa recognizes no other state’s permit. Some states will only recognize permits from states that recognize their own. This will allow licensed Iowans to travel armed in more states.

Lastly, HF 2255 would establish an appeals process for denied, revoked or suspended permits. The bill states that if the issuing authority “denies an application for or suspends or revokes a permit to carry weapons or an annual permit to acquire pistols or revolvers, the applicant or permit holder shall have the right to appeal the denial, suspension, or revocation of the permit to an administrative law judge in the department of inspections and appeals within thirty days of receiving written notice of the denial, suspension, or revocation.” That is certainly an improvement over the current “no appeals, no remedy” system.

For those of you keeping track, those are the five key elements long-ago identified as necessary reforms to Iowa weapons law by the gun rights group Iowa Carry. If the NRA would have stopped there it would have been a pretty good bill. Unfortunately, the NRA decided to throw in some “compromises” to make the bill palatable to a wider group of moderate legislators. Which brings us to:

HF 2255- The Bad
The bill creates a new victimless crime of possessing or carrying a loaded firearm on their person or in their vehicle while “under the influence of alcohol,” which would be a serious misdemeanor. If convicted, in addition to any civil penalties, you could then have your carry permit revoked.

Unlike drunk driving laws, which give quantifiable definitions of intoxication, possessing a firearm “under the influence” would be a nebulous guideline open to interpretation and abuse. What it means would basically be decided by the political temperament of your local police and prosecutors.

In my Dueling Gun Bills post I muddled the issue of age restrictions somewhat. Iowans can apply for a professional carry permit when they’re 18, but have to be 21 to get a nonprofessional carry permit. The new bill would keep these age requirements. So, you can be armed to guard other people’s lives and property when you’re 18, but can’t be armed to defend your own until you’re 21. Makes sense right? I know the proper age of majority could be an entire debate in and of itself, but I’m of the mind that if an 18-20 year old is old enough to vote, pay taxes and get his legs blown off in some third-world hellhole he’s old enough to hoist a cold beer with his buddies or carry a pistol. But since this is merely retaining the current standards in Iowa, I can’t really ding the NRA for that one.

Speaking of retaining current standards, HF 2255 would retain Iowa’s ridiculous “annual permit to acquire pistols or revolvers.” That too is “bad.” But more about that in a moment, under the heading of:

HF 2255- The Ugly

I could probably live with the bad things in the previous section. But now we get to what, for me, is a deal breaker. The NRA bill would write the language of the unconstitutional Lautenberg Amendment into Iowa law not once, but twice! Once dealing with carry permits and once dealing with the aforementioned purchase permit. This odious piece of legislation was originally sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg for the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. Among other things it banned the possession of firearms by anyone who had ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or had been subject to court restraining order. Losing your constitutional rights over a misdemeanor doesn’t seem right.

I understand what the intent was behind this law, as it conjures up images of psychotic stalkers and violent wife beaters. Unfortunately, many innocuous victims have gotten caught in the Lautenberg net. "This gun ban has disarmed millions of law-abiding citizens," points out Kathleen Gennaro, Director of Women's Policy for Gun Owners of America. "Because of this law, merely spanking a child or slapping a husband could result in a woman's being disarmed forever.” Men too, Kathleen. I was serving in the Iowa National Guard when this law went into effect and saw how it affected people. No longer able to be issued their duty weapons, many soldiers and cops lost their careers over long-forgotten squabbles with ex-wives or old girlfriends.

Since it was retroactive even to crimes committed before the law passed, it is an ex post facto law, which is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Even the ACLU said "it was inappropriate and a violation of the rights of individual citizens to impose a limitation on gun ownership retroactively for offenses that may have occurred years before.” The amendment also violates the Constitution’s Second and Tenth Amendment principles. Some courts are still kicking around its constitutionality. The NRA should be trying to stamp the Lautenberg Amendment out, not clone it in the states.

So there is the good, the bad and the ugly of HF 2255. There is enough “good” in the bill that I think well-intentioned Iowans can support it in good conscious and certainly without being called “traitors” or any of the other heated rhetoric that is being thrown around lately. I wish them well.

But there is enough “bad” and “ugly” in it (from a libertarian perspective) that I won’t be joining them in support of HF 2255. The bad parts won’t be fixed later, after the NRA has declared victory, collected its donations and gone home. I’ll be supporting HF596/SF473, the IGO’s Vermont Carry bill. It doesn’t compromise any of my principles so, win or lose, I’ll sleep soundly thank you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Official" Weapons Bills Filed

Let's keep the weapons bill topic rolling from the last post.

Today the NRA "Shall Issue" bill was filed in the Iowa legislature and given the bill number House File 2255. Opponents and proponents alike (myself included) can now stop speculating what the bill may contain. You can read the bill, in its entirety, here.

Although I've increasingly found myself having philosophical differences with the NRA in the last several years, I'm going to try (TRY mind you) to read the bill with an open mind. I hope that all of you will too, so we can have an honest debate on the meat of the bill.

Also, Iowa Gun Owner's "Vermont Carry" bill has also been introduced. (I know they keep calling it "Alaska Carry" because it sounds more rugged, but it was called "Vermont Carry" before Alaska got it, so I ain't changing!) The bill numbers on this one are House File 2241 or Senate File 473.

I'll be reading both bills before I comment on them.

Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment for Iowa Constitution-

In a separate but related subject, Iowa Carry reported the following in their email update:

"Rep. Rants did exactly what he promised to do - HJR 2010 was introduced on February 1, providing the RKBA for the Iowa Constitution. Adding this to the Constitution is a long process, but this is where it needs to start. HJR 2010 needs your support! Contact your state representative today and urge him or her to support HJR 2010!

"The bill was assigned to the Public Safety Committee, and then to a subcommittee of R. Olson, Lukan, and Lykam."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dueling Gun Bills

Vermont Carry” vs. “Shall Issue” In Iowa

Once again this year, competing bills seeking to reform Iowa’s iniquitous weapons carry laws have been introduced. This year however, this seems to be causing a growing fissure in the gun rights community.

One bill, House File 596/Senate File 473, the “Vermont Carry” bill, is being touted as the “REAL Right-to-Carry Bill.” This bill is being pushed by the group Iowa Gun Owners (IGO) and was sponsored in the House by Rep. Sorenson (R-74) and in the State Senate by Sen. Hartsuch (R-41). It currently has 24 co-sponsors in the House and 9 in the Senate.

According to IGO, HF596/SF473 would “[restore] the 2nd Amendment in Iowa by eliminating mandatory government training, paying fees, and the whole concept of having to beg permission to exercise a Constitutional right.” The bill “would allow any Iowan, who is not a felon or otherwise barred by law from owning weapons, to carry a weapon for self-defense, concealed or openly, WITHOUT having to get government permission.” [Emphasis in original.] This is often called “Vermont Carry” because the only two states that allow it are Vermont and (more recently) Alaska. Many other western states, however, allow citizens to carry openly without a permit, while requiring a permit to carry concealed.

The other bill, which has not had been assigned bill numbers yet, is a “shall issue” law written by the NRA, and supported by the pro-gun groups Iowa Carry (IC) [of which I'm a dues-paying member], Iowa Sportsmen's Federation, and the Iowa State Rifle & Pistol Association. Current Iowa law allows local sheriff’s total discretion on whether or not to issue weapons permits to qualified applicants. The current law says that sheriffs “may issue” permits, so it is often called a “may issue” law. This has essentially left Iowa with 99 policies on issuing weapons permits, one for each county. The new NRA bill would address the five key criteria identified as essential by Iowa Carry: “Shall Issue,” standardized training, reciprocity (with other states), an appeals process for permit denials, and privacy of records.

Although Iowa Carry had ostensibly partnered with the NRA on this bill, once NRA had assured IC that it’s five points would be addressed, IC appears to have then been relegated to the role of a father-to-be from the 1950’s, waiting nervously in the hospital lobby to see what the so-called “professionals” delivered. Input from us Iowa “local yokels” seemed to be pretty minimal (from my limited vantage point).

Surprisingly to some, the NRA bill has come under heavy fire from fellow guns rights activists, most notably IGO. While IGO’s disparagement might be casually dismissed as merely trying to push their own bill to the top of the heap, the criticism is coming from many quarters. Jeff Knox at The Firearms Coalition has been panning the NRA’s bill, as has Gun Owners of America.

Another voice joining the chorus is long-time gun activist Ed Dolan, currently the “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” Project Leader for the Iowa Campaign for Liberty (C4L). Dolan has fought in the trenches for the Second Amendment here in Iowa for a good many years, including working for the NRA as an “election volunteer coordinator.” His is an opinion I respect. In a recent email on behalf of C4L, Dolan outlines problems with the NRA bill and endorses the IGO Vermont Carry bill.

One problem Dolan identifies with the NRA bill (and probably with any arms licensing regime) is that “it ignores constitutional principles by accepting the State’s power to reduce our God-given constitutional rights to fee-based, permitted privileges.” Indeed it’s hard to say that one has a “right” to keep and bear arms if one has to ask for government permission and pay to exercise it.

Dolan also identifies three nuts-and-bolts problems with the NRA bill, which he puts under the category of “Solutions in Search of a Problem.” Firstly, according to Dolan, the bill “[a]dds unnecessary federal restrictions to Iowa’s purchase and permitting process, barring thousands of peaceable Iowans from protecting their families.” From what I understand, the NRA bill would basically codify the dreaded federal Lautenberg Amendment into Iowa law. If we ever manage to get it repealed at one level, it would then still exist at the other.

Secondly, Dolan says the bill “[i]nvents a new victimless crime of being ‘under the influence’ (undefined) while carrying. I call it the ‘Two beers, too bad’ law. You lose your gun rights forever without ever ‘skinning that smokewagon!’” While no one advocates drinking while armed, “under the influence of alcohol” would be open for wide interpretation by anti-gun police and prosecutors. Would a gulp of wine at communion or a gargle of Scope put you “under the influence?” We just don’t know. Let me also add: “Skinning your smoke wagon” sounds painful!

Thirdly, the NRA bill “[r]aises the [permit to carry] age from 18 to 21 years of age. Again, why?” It would be pretty hard to explain to an 18 to 20 year old Iowa Guardsman why he can be trusted to carry a Javelin antitank missile in Afghanistan but not a six-shooter at home, but civilians only three years older than himself can.

If Iowa gun owners learned anything last legislative season (when a mediocre gun bill was amended into an atrocious gun bill), these “compromises” that the NRA has built into the bill will be treated as a floor, not a ceiling, by anti-gun legislators. You would think the NRA would make their bill as clean and tight as possible to start out; but they didn’t. When it emerges from the legislative sausage press it will be even worse.

This is not to say the shall issue bill is entirely without merit. It would bring Iowa’s carry laws in line with the Iowa Constitution’s mandate that laws have a “uniform operation” across the state. That is important. And it would redress those five points sought by Iowa Carry.

Iowa Carry, for its part, doesn’t oppose IGO’s Vermont Carry bill, it just doesn’t think it’s politically doable right now. "We've had a hard enough time going from may issue to shall issue," said Sean McClanahan, president of IC. "It's just not politically feasible." He adds: "We lost rights a little at a time. We have to take them back little by little."

There is truth to those words. People who forgo “better” (shall issue) in hopes of “best” (Vermont Carry), often end up with neither. Unfortunately, in this case I have serious doubts that the “better” option is really better.

At the risk of alienating some of my friends at Iowa Carry, I’ll be pushing my representatives to support the Vermont Carry bill (HF596/SF473) and not the NRA bill. Second Amendment purists might not be able to win the battle for Vermont Carry in Iowa, but it’s a good hill to die on.

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