Letter to the editor: The proposed ‘strict scrutiny’ amendment is un-Iowan

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illustration by Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

By Liz O’Hara

When I told a friend 16 years ago that I was moving to Iowa, her comment was that the Iowans she had met always seemed so sensible. It’s a flattering generalization, but some in the Iowa Legislature seem about ready to prove the exception.

A proposed constitutional amendment subjecting any limits at all on gun ownership to “strict scrutiny” by the courts is senseless and dangerous. Proponents describe the amendment as enshrining the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at the state level. The Second Amendment does not include the strict scrutiny requirement, however, and thus states have been free to pass laws keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, out of places like schools and courtrooms, and subject to reasonable restrictions on concealed carry.

I support the Second Amendment, and respect the rights of responsible, safety-minded gun owners. We know from national polling data that most gun-owners, like Americans in general, favor a stronger system of background checks for gun purchases. Recent polling in Iowa showed near universal support — across party lines, and including gun owners — for permit requirements to carry a concealed handgun in public, and for background checks for all handgun sales.

What is the potential impact of subjecting these kinds of reasonable limits to “strict scrutiny” by the courts? In Missouri, one of three states which have adopted strict scrutiny requirements, courts and prosecutors have failed to pursue charges against felons illegally possessing guns. Both Missouri and Louisiana, which has also adopted strict scrutiny language, project millions of dollars in costs to state and local governments due to expected litigation over existing firearms restrictions.

The polls show that Iowans are, in fact, very sensible about the ownership and use of guns. The same can’t be said for legislators that ignore those polls.

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