What’s In Iowa’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ Law?

226fd-range_shooterOn April 13th, 2017 Governor Branstad signed HF517 into law. Iowa Firearms Coalition, the chief catalyst for getting it passed, called it “the biggest gun bill in Iowa history.” While supporters say it will revitalize Iowans’ Second Amendment rights and increase safety, opponents said that it would take Iowa back to the “Wild West” and was even “evil” and sanctioned “racism.” Wow!

So, what’s actually in this thing? Let’s take a look. (Bear in mind that this piece is written by a layman for laymen. I’m not an attorney and nothing I say should be considered legal advice. I’m way too underpaid for that.) The law is broken down into fourteen separate divisions, each one dealing with a different topic.

Division One is pretty straight forward, it simply gets rid of Iowa’s state ban on “short-barreled” rifles and shotguns. Keep in mind that you still have to comply with federal law on these. This means paying hundreds of dollars to the federales, registering the weapon with them, getting a tax stamp, and a bunch of other stuff I’m never going to do. I’ll just stick with a 16″ or longer barrel. But Iowans who want short-barreled weapons now have legal avenue to get them.

Division Two is titled “CARRYING WEAPONS AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS” and is a bit more wide-ranging.  Most important here is that it changes Iowa law to recognize that “going armed with intent” to do bad things cannot be inferred just because someone is carrying a concealed weapon. That’s good news for Iowa’s 200,000+ permit to carry (PTC) holders, since lawfully carrying your firearm alone can no longer be used an excuse to charge someone with that class D felony by some politically motivated prosecutor.

Another provision in Division Two allows duly licensed private investigators  and private security officers to carry weapons on school grounds in the performance of their duties. That won’t affect many people.  This division also makes it a serious misdemeanor to carry or possess a dangerous weapon if you’re legally intoxicated, unless you’re on your own property.

One last provision here allows someone who gets busted for not having their PTC with them to have the charge dismissed if they show the court that they did indeed have a valid permit. Previously, forgetting your permit at home was the same as not having one at all.

Division Three seeks to clean up and clarify the PTC application process and training requirements. One change is that applicants will only have to provide proof of training for their INITIAL permit. It’s no longer required for renewals. That proof of training can come from the usual sources: military or police training from any time, or civvy training within the prior twenty-four months.

One thing that had opponents’ undies in a bunch was that this provision specifically says internet training was acceptable.  Regardless of what the law says, I hope everyone gets as much good hands-on training as they can as soon as they’re able to. Not to appease the naysayers, which is a fool’s errand, but because it just makes good sense.

This provision also spells out that if you don’t apply for your renewal of a PTC within 30 days prior to its expiration or 30 after, your next application will be treated as an initial permit, WITH the training requirements and a $50 fee rather than a $25 renewal fee. Division Three also states that PTC’s will now have a uniform appearance statewide and if a PTC applicant is found to have been wrongfully denied a PTC that applicant can be awarded court costs.

Division Four is another straight forward provision. It merely makes Iowa’s completely unnecessary ” permit to acquire pistols or revolvers” good for 5 years, instead of the current 1 year. It will also make sure they are of a uniform appearance statewide. These archaic things were rendered redundant with the introduction of required instant background checks with gun sales, which is why gun rights supporters initially tried to scrap them outright. Oh well, this is still progress on this front.

For some reason Division Five elicited a lot of pants wetting by liberals and the press (but I repeat myself). This provision merely allows parents to instruct their children on how to safely handle handguns. A previous Iowa law said a child had to be at least 14 to even touch a handgun (but were allowed to fire rifles and shotguns at any age of the parents’ discretion).

HF517 states: “A parent or guardian or spouse who is twenty-one years of age or older, of a person under the age of twenty-one may allow the person ,while under direct supervision, to possess a pistol or revolver or the ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose , or while the person receives instruction in the proper use thereof from an instructor twenty-one years of age or older, with the consent of such parent, guardian or spouse.” The law defines “direct supervision” as: “supervision provided by the parent, guardian, or spouse who is twenty-one years of age or older and who maintains a physical presence near the supervised person conducive to hands-on instruction, and who maintains visual and verbal contact at all times with the supervised person.” Clutch my pearls!

I don’t understand how handguns are fundamentally different from rifles or shotguns. If kids are bound to encounter all types of firearms, why not be able to teach them about all types. When this same provision was proposed last year, opponents declared that it would create a “militia of toddlers” in Iowa. When opponents are reduced to arguing against issues with absurd hyperbole they obviously have no clue and no credibility.

Division Six is also pretty simple. It merely states that personally identifiable information on nonprofessional PTC holders kept by the Commissioner of Public Safety and county sheriffs shall be kept confidential. No more releasing the names and addresses of permit holders to the newspapers to be printed for back-fence gossip or as shopping lists for burglars.

Division Seven strengthens Iowa’s existing preemption law, which had previously been rendered almost meaningless by the state’s anti-gun attorney general. The new provision states that if a city or county makes a rule regulating gun ownership that is otherwise legal in the state, the person adversely affected may sue that city or county for damages.

Division Eight allows for PTC holders to carry concealed at the Iowa state capitol buildings and grounds. This is probably not something that most of us will be doing much of, but is probably more of a symbolic gesture since Iowans should be able to exercise basic freedoms there.

Division Nine prohibits the governor or local officials from seizing legal firearms or curtailing normal gun rights during a state of emergency. If an official violates this provision, it allows the aggrieved person to seek return of property, damages and/or injunctive relief.

Division Ten is probably the laws most controversial provision, what is commonly called “stand-your-ground.” While this got the most press it will probably not affect most gun owners (thank God). If you find yourself impacted by the stand-your-ground provisions of this law, you’re already in a world of hurt.

The “justifiable use of reasonable and deadly force” was already covered by existing law and HF517 alters some of the parameters around it, but not as drastically as you might think. If fact the legal definition of “reasonable force” doesn’t change at all. It’s still: “[T]hat force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat.”

Since the definition of “reasonable force” hasn’t changed, it stands to reason that what was “unreasonable” before the new law is still “unreasonable.” So people who think that the HF517 gives gun owners carte blanche to act like they’re in a Quentin Tarantino movie have another thing coming.

The new law does add that “a person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.” [Emphasis added.]

It also adds that a “person who is not engaged in illegal activity has no duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force as specified in this chapter.” That sentence is the meat of “stand-your-ground” that, for some reason, gives some people fits.

The law makes a few other tweaks as well, such as providing some criminal and civil immunity for a person is justified in using reasonable force.

I’m no lawyer, but none of this reads like stuff that will allow you to shoot everyone for no reason and certainly doesn’t declare an “open season on black people” (as I heard one critic warn). In fact, this isn’t some strange alien legal concept; only 15 states DON’T have “stand-your-ground” laws. By imposing a legal duty on crime victims to turn their back to their attackers and try to flee, Iowa was among the minority fringe of states. But no longer; welcome to normalcy Iowa!

Division Eleven makes it a class “D” felony to illegally buy a weapon or ammo, knowingly provide false information on your gun purchase paperwork, or get someone else to do it for you. This shouldn’t affect you unless you’re a crook.

Division Twelve removes the previous requirement that a person on a snowmobile or ATV carry their handgun a special retention holster. You can now use any kind of holster.

Division Thirteen was a rather neat little surprise since I didn’t really hear about it until I read the law for myself.  It states that owners or tenants of private property in unincorporated areas (or folks with their permission) may discharge a firearm for target practice on those private premises. Further, “the use of such private premises for target shooting shall not be found to be in violation of a noise ordinance or declared a public or private nuisance or be otherwise prohibited under state or local law.” Ideally this law shouldn’t be necessary since you should be able to do pretty much whatever you want on your own land, but it’s a nice protection since that’s often not how it goes in modern America.

Division Fourteen sets up the effective dates. The section allowing parents to train their kids on handgun safety (Division Five) and the section keeping personal PTC information confidential (Division Six) go into effect immediately. All the rest go into effect July 1st, which is when new Iowa laws usually take effect. Division Fourteen also states that Division Six confidentiality is for nonprofessional PTC holders.

In total, HF517 can certainly be viewed as a huge win for Iowa’s gun owners. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be a loss for any other Iowan (other than maybe the occasional ruffian). So if you are someone who is morosely fretting about the sky falling from Wild West shootouts, racial genocide and toddler militias out your front door: Take heart! Your fellow Iowans are not the irresponsible, despicable, racist, pieces of human debris that you’ve been led to believe they are. Life will go on, just as it did after the “shall issue” permit law was passed, and individual Iowans are a bit freer. That’s a good thing.

 

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Iowa Gun Group Unveils Ambitious Agenda

6f1dd-ifcWith both chambers of the Iowa legislature now under Republican control, Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) appears ready for a year full of action in Des Moines. In a recent communique, Barry B. Snell, IFC’s Executive Director, expressed enthusiasm that many of the groups legislative goals would reach fruition this year. In previous years these bills had languished in the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate. I’ve been a member of this group since way back when they were still called “Iowa Carry” and I’ve never seen a declaration from them expressing this much certainty of getting bills passed.

First on IFC’s to-do list is a right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) amendment to the Iowa Constitution. Snell points out that ours is one of only six states that doesn’t have a provision protecting citizens’ guns rights in its state constitution. The progress we make on gun rights in the state could be swept away quickly without the “set in stone” protection of a state constitutional amendment.

Since amending the state constitution is a complicated multi-year process, IFC wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. (Appropriately, on the opening day of Iowa’s 2017 legislation session this Monday, 29 lawmakers in the Iowa Senate introduced Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR2) to add this amendment.)

Snell next mentions “The Youth Safe Shooting and Parental Rights Act.” Almost passed last year, this bill would fix Iowa’s nonsensical law which makes it illegal for parents to teach their children under 14 how to safely handle a handgun. Since the current law is so silly and unknown to most people, Snell rightly points out that it has probably made “thousands of otherwise good, law-abiding Iowans into unwitting felons – and for no good reason!” Snell seemed all but certain this bill would be signed into law this year.

Next in  IFC’s agenda are the perennial favorites of Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine bills. Both passed in the Iowa House in 2012, but died in the Iowa Senate. Next was Constitutional Carry (or what we used to call “Vermont Carry) “allowing all Iowa citizens with a legal right to possess firearms to carry them without a government tax and permission slip.”

Also mentioned were bills to:

  • strengthen Iowa’s preemption law which forbids localities from placing onerous restrictions on firearms
  • “better allow school teachers to carry, eligible faculty, staff, students and visitors at Iowa’s Regents universities to carry, and of course, allow Iowans to carry in public places such as the Iowa Fairgrounds.”
  • “protect the individual’s right to keep a firearm in their vehicle regardless of where it is parked.”
  • protect the personal information of weapons permit holders,
  • streamline Iowa’s “goofy” permit to carry renewal process.
  • allow bowhunters to carry their self-defensive arms when hunting.

That is certainly an ambitious agenda. We definitely need the RKBA amendment to the state constitution first and foremost. Beyond that, if IFC can even get a portion of their list accomplished it may be a banner year for Second Amendment supporters in Iowa.

 

The Parties’ Platforms on Guns

Here is what the three noteworthy political parties say about Second Amendment issues in their platforms.

Libertarian Party

1.9 Self-Defense
“The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights—life, liberty, and justly acquired property—against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.”

Republican Party of Iowa

“4. We strongly believe in the constitutionally protected natural right of individuals to keep and bear arms, as recognized and protected by the Second Amendment, and we support the repeal of existing laws that infringe upon those rights. We support the addition of “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” provisions to Iowa law.”

Democratic Party of Iowa

Gun Safety

 We support:
 248. President Obama’s executive orders on gun control
 249. universal background checks
 250. requiring registration, licensing, education/testing & liability insurance
 251. banning assault weapons
 252. gun-free zones
 253. closing “gun show loopholes”
 254. right to prohibit firearms on one’s property
 255. temporary confiscation of firearms from individuals under DANCOs
 256. guardians’ accountability for minors’ inappropriate gun access
 257. nationwide database of gun ownership
 258. hand gun regulation

 We oppose:
 259. “Stand your ground”
 260. open carry

Pro-Freedom Bills In Des Moines- Feb. 2015

Iowa State House; Des Moines, Iowa; June 30, 2013.JPG
There are some good bills floating around in the Iowa legislature this year that could use our support.
Gun Rights Bills
First up are four pro-gun owner bills and the synopsis for each one provided by the Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC).
House File 45 – Emergency Powers This bill guarantees that Iowan’s Second Amendment rights remain intact during times of public emergencies, when the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones is needed most. In short it would keep Hurricane Katrina style confiscations from happening here in Iowa.

House File 59 – Preemption Clarification
HF59 amends IA Code 724.28 which says local municipalities and governing bodies shall not preempt or supersede state firearms law. Iowa has had a preemption law for almost 25 years, but every year many local municipalities continue to try to work around this law and illegally in fringe on Iowan’s rights. This bill would strengthen the current code and provide citizen’s rights greater protections from over zealous governing bodies.

House File 92 – Stand Your Ground
This legislation would remove a person’s “duty to retreat” from an attacker in any location.  This would allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves or their family anywhere they are lawfully present.  This legislation would also expressly enhance the protections against criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits when justifiable force is used.

House File 99 – Repeal the Youth Shooting Ban 
Currently anyone under the age of 14 is strictly prohibited from holding or shooting a handgun in Iowa – regardless of whether or not that minor is under parental supervision. HF99 would amend the state code to allow a person under 14 to lawfully shoot a handgun, with proper supervision, as long as their parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older has provided consent.

IFC maintains an Legislative Action Center site where you can send a pre-written message to your Iowa representatives urging them to support these bills.
Contraband Bills
If polls are right, about 38% of you reading these words have tried marijuana. Most of you did NOT end up living in a van down by the river or murdering your parents with a pitchfork as pot alarmists would have everyone believe. And although fireworks have been illegal in Iowa since the 1930’s, many Iowans bootleg them in and light them off.
There are three bills that seek to lessen the nanny state’s grasp on these relatively harmless, yet illegal activities. Reducing penalties for pot would free up jail space for violent bad guys, saving the state money. Legalizing fireworks would supply the state with an additional source of tax revenue.

Reduces marijuana possession penalties involving up to 28.5 grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a simple misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine. 
 Reduces marijuana possession penalties involving up to 5 grams of cannabis. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 1 in favor of this legislation, which now moves on to the full Senate for debate.
You can go to the NORML website to send a pre-written message of support for these bills to your Iowa legislators here.
This would legalize certain retail fireworks for purchase by Iowa consumers.
Freedom of Movement
This bill would raise the speed limit to 75 on some of Iowa’s rural interstate highways.
This bill would prevent Iowa counties and cities from adopting ordinances barring 19- and 20-year-old adults from bars. This would most notably shoot down Iowa City’s 21-ordinance. I wrote about why denying these legal adults their rights to liberty, peaceable assembly and pursuit of happiness was fundamentally wrong here.
Be sure to let your Iowa State Representative or Senator know how you feel about any of these potential  laws above.


"Cold Hard Cashner on Gun Rights"

Please check out and buy my new book: “Cold Hard Cashner on Gun Rights: Second Amendment Writings From 2008-2013.”

http://www.blurb.com/b/5203508-cold-hard-cashner-on-gun-rights
 

“Cold Hard Cashner” has been called “the premiere small-town Iowa blog about Liberty.” This book collects the blog’s best posts dealing with Second Amendment issues since its inception in 2008 through 2013. In these pages you will read about the history and philosophy behind the Second Amendment, Iowa’s struggle to become a “shall-issue” state, gun training and selection, and the gun politics in the state.

About the author: Benjamin R. Cashner is a lifelong resident of Iowa where he lives with his wife and two children. He served as an infantryman in the Iowa Army National Guard from 1992 to 1998. Cashner is a member of the Iowa Libertarian Party and his columns have appeared in the “Cedar Rapids Gazette” and “Iowa City Press-Citizen.”

Buy the book HERE.

Resistance Is NOT Futile!

“Resistance is futile,” the evil Borg would warn enemies that they intended to assimilate into their collective on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It seems like we hear that exhortation from all types of progressive “experts” these days when it comes defending ourselves from those who would prey upon us.

While Colorado was passing its recent gun bans (including banning licensed concealed carry on college campuses), for instance, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs advised its students to vomit or urinate on themselves to repel a rapist. Active resistance could get the girl harmed, don’t you know? This despite the fact that research going all the way back to the Jimmy Carter administration shows that of attempted rapes 32% were actually committed, but when a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of the attempted rapes were actually successful.

Rape isn’t the only crime that armed defense has proven effective in resisting. After the Newton shootings President Obama called for a review of existing research on gun violence. The results he got probably weren’t what he was looking for. The assessment from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council concludes that crime victims who use guns in self-defense have lower injury rates than other victims.

One 2006 Florida State University study cited in the assessment found that “self-protection in general, both forceful and nonforceful, reduced the likelihood of property loss and injury, compared to nonresistance.” It found that using a gun in self-defense reduced the risk of property loss as well minor or serious injury to the victim. In clinical language, it concludes: “Combined with the fact that injuries following resistance are almost always relatively minor, victim resistance appears to be generally a wise course of action.” In other words, “Resist, damn it!”

You can see the macro-effects of individual armed resistance on our crime rates as well. Since violent crime peaked in 1991, twenty-four more states have enacted “shall issue” laws giving citizens a lawful means to carry the most effective tool of resistance. Researchers found that “when state concealed handgun laws went into effect[,] murders fell by 8.5 percent, and rapes and aggravated assaults fell by 5 and 7 percent.” In our nation we now see that gun ownership is at an all-time high while the nation’s murder rate is at all-time lows. (Despite this, 56% of Americans think gun crime is worse than 20 years ago. Thank you mainstream media!)

Of course our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms wasn’t meant just to give us the means to resist muggers, murderers and rapists. It also gives us a defense “against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers” (in the words of jurist and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story).

Although 65% of Americans believe the 2nd Amendment exists as a hedge against tyranny, I’ve heard this idea pooh-poohed by modern intelligentsia who believe that common citizens armed with light weapons would no longer be able to stand up to a foreign invader or domestic tyrant armed with heavy weapons and even nuclear weapons. (“Resistance is futile.”)

However, there are numerous examples of primitive indigenous forces wreaking havoc on more-advanced foreign occupiers. The Afghans, for instance, were able to fight the Soviets for nearly a decade, eventually expelling them, and they have kept us hemorrhaging blood and treasure and unable to declare victory for over twelve years now.

Whether the tyrannical oppressor is foreign or domestic, in his book The War of the Flea, Robert Taber makes a convincing case that as long a guerrilla force retains the support and good will of the general populace it is very nearly unbeatable. An American resistance movement fighting honorably against despotism would no doubt retain a great deal of popular support from the American people.

Even if it were to fail, would it not be better to try? Better to stand against tyranny? Is not better to die on your feet than live on your knees? In The Gulag Archipelago,  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book about the Soviet forced labor camp system, it is  recounted how the victims of Communist brutality regretted not standing up against their oppressors early on:

“During an arrest, you think since you are not guilty, how can they arrest you? Why should you run away? And how can you resist right then? After all, you’ll only make your situation worse; you will make it more difficult for them to sort out the mistake.

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family?

“Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?

“The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! We did not love freedom enough. Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.”

No wonder that our Founding Fathers wrote in several of their state Bills of Rights that, “The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.” Whether it be against the petty crimes of street criminals or the high crimes of tyrants: Stand and resist!

Introducing: Iowa Gun Grabber Hall of Shame

I’m rolling out a new separate page on the blog, “The Iowa Gun Grabber Hall of Shame.” The purpose is to “honor” leaders in Iowa who use their positions to promote infringement upon the Second Amendment rights of their fellow citizens. If you know someone you’d like to nominate to the Hall of Shame, read the guidelines on the page and email them to me.