The Constitution of the State of Iowa contains no provision regarding the keeping or bearing of arms. In 2021, the Iowa State Legislature approved a second consecutive proposed constitutional amendment to add a provision about keeping and bearing arms to the Iowa State Constitution. The proposed amendment is expected to be submitted to Iowa voters on the 2022 ballot.1
One significant detail is that rather than simply enshrining a right to keep and bear arms, the proposed constitutional amendment contains an extreme provision that would force judges to apply a legal standard called “strict scrutiny” to “any and all restrictions” of the right to keep and bear arms—including background check laws, laws prohibiting gun possession by violent offenders, and restrictions on guns in schools. Only three states (Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana) have ever adopted such an extreme provision and they have done so recently; there is no historical support for a “strict scrutiny” provision in a state constitution.
In addition, in its landmark Heller decision recognizing individual Second Amendment rights, the US Supreme Court rejected the radical idea that strict scrutiny should apply to all gun laws. In fact, Justice Scalia’s opinion identified many reasonable and basic gun safety laws, like those that prevent dangerous people from accessing guns and keep schools gun-free, as “presumptively lawful”—a standard that is the opposite of strict scrutiny. Courts in Iowa and elsewhere have overwhelmingly rejected the strict scrutiny standard as being contrary to Justice Scalia’s opinion in Heller. Nonetheless, if voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment, this standard would become law in the state of Iowa.
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- See 2021 Iowa Senate Joint Resolution 7.