Giffords Condemns the Iowa Legislature For Passing Dangerous Constitutional Amendment
The passage of HJR 4/SJR 1 puts Iowa’s current gun laws at risk by moving the extreme “strict scrutiny” amendment to the ballot
Washington, DC — Giffords, the gun violence prevention group led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, released the following statement in reaction to the Iowa Legislature’s passage of a constitutional amendment that would threaten the state’s gun laws by applying a “strict scrutiny” standard to state gun safety laws. Only three states have ever adopted this dangerous standard into their constitutions (Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama), and now Iowa voters will decide whether to become the fourth.
Statement from Hannah Shearer, Litigation Director at Giffords:
“A strict scrutiny standard is a Wild West approach to gun policy. Iowa courts have previously rejected this dangerous standard when it comes to commonsense laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Passage of this amendment would override that ruling and force judges to review these and every other gun safety regulation on the books using the most demanding legal standard available. This accomplishes nothing to protect Iowans’ rights and will only open the courtroom doors to challenges against bedrock gun safety laws like background checks and prohibitions on gun possession by violent offenders. Giffords strongly condemns the passage of HJR 4/SJR 1, and we will continue to fight for the safety of all Iowans by working to defeat this misguided change to Iowa’s Constitution.”
The passage adds Second Amendment language to the Iowa Constitution, and pairs it with a dangerous mandate that forces judges to apply a legal standard called “strict scrutiny” to “any and all restrictions” of the right to keep and bear arms. Strict scrutiny is the most demanding standard applied in constitutional cases: It requires judges to assume a challenged policy is unconstitutional until the state proves otherwise. Supporters claim HJR 4/SJR 1 simply protects Second Amendment rights in Iowa. But this ignores the dangerous and extreme strict scrutiny provision, which only 3 states (Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama) have ever adopted.
This proposed amendment to the Constitution has been approved by two consecutive general assemblies and must now go to Iowa voters to consider as a ballot measure. The measure passed the state legislature last year.
Dangers of the Passed Constitutional Changes
Some supporters say the constitutional amendment simply protects Second Amendment rights in Iowa. But this ignores the dangerous strict scrutiny provision, which only three states (Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama) have previously ever adopted. These states are outliers that have taken the most radical steps to deregulate guns, and their gun death rates are much higher than Iowa’s. If the experiences of these other states holds true, the amendment would endanger all of Iowa’s gun laws and lead to frivolous litigation that burdens the justice system at taxpayers’ expense.
- The amendment makes it much easier to challenge Iowa’s gun laws in court. The amendment requires courts to apply “strict scrutiny” to all permissible restrictions on individuals’ right to possess and carry firearms, including background check laws and restrictions on guns in schools. This is a dangerous and radical policy that constrains the discretion of Iowa’s legislature to regulate guns and force state judges to apply a legal standard under which laws are more frequently struck down.
- The constitutional amendment will drive frivolous litigation. Strict scrutiny gives every criminal offender who violates Iowa’s gun laws a new tool to challenge their convictions under the state Constitution. As a result, the amendment encourages much more litigation over Iowa’s laws, even lifesaving gun regulations that are clearly constitutional, such as restrictions on gun possession by felons and domestic abusers.
- The constitutional amendment is dangerously vague and overbroad. Because it doesn’t define “arms,” it could make it impossible to restrict extremely dangerous weapons like bump stocks and machine guns. And the strict scrutiny mandate broadly applies to any and all firearm “restrictions,” which means the proposal would not only endanger gun safety laws, but also a wide range of other policies, like state agency and school board rules, and actions taken by prosecutors and police if challenged in court.
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