On Nov. 8, all Iowans registered to vote ought to exercise that right and vote “no” on a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would adversely affect our right and our responsibility to safety. The referendum proposes that any restrictions to the right of the people to keep and bear arms “shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”
Gun rights activists say the amendment simply protects Second Amendment rights in Iowa. However, the added phrase to our clearly established right to keep and bear arms “would virtually eliminate the ability of the state legislature to regulate this right,” according to Iowans for Responsible Gun Ownership. “The proposed amendment goes beyond the Second Amendment. It puts the right to possess and carry a gun without any infringement above the right to public safety for our communities and children” (IowansforResponsibleGunLaws.com).
“Gun morality means my rights must be balanced by and subservient to my responsibilities. The Common Good and life must be served first. Gun safety laws need to be strengthened, not forbidden,” as Donald Moeller stated in a letter to the editor published Sept. 1 in The Catholic Messenger. Iowa’s bishops advise a “no” vote on the amendment, stating, “The right to bear arms as found in our Constitution must be balanced against the safety and well-being of the populace as a whole” (Iowa Catholic Conference newsletter, 6-10-22).
Giffords, a gun violence prevention group led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was critically wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011, describes a strict scrutiny standard as a “Wild West approach to gun policy.” The group said, “Iowa courts have previously rejected this dangerous standard when it comes to common sense 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 regulations 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” (https://tinyurl.com/2km5r6sr).
In these next six weeks before the Nov. 8 general election, we should exercise our responsibility to learn more about the proposed amendment, labeled as “Public Measure 1” on the ballot. Among the opportunities for our call to action:
• Attend a virtual panel via Zoom titled “Understanding the Iowa Proposed Gun Amendment,” scheduled Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m. Sponsors are communities of women religious in northeast and southeast Iowa and Divine Word College in Epworth (https://bit.ly/3Lffb4M to register). The panel will explore the proposed amendment from a faith perspective and a nonpartisan stance. Guest speakers are Art Roche, acting chair, Iowans for Gun Safety; Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC); and Tom Brezenski, PhD, political science and public policy. ‘“Public Measure 1’ does not clearly state the purpose of the amendment, and many Iowans will not realize what they are voting for on Nov. 8,” said Sister Nancy Miller, OSF, social justice coordinator for the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque. “This virtual panel is to help educate Iowa voters about the purpose of the proposed amendment and the adverse implications it may have.”
• Visit the Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws website. The organization announced this spring a campaign to defeat the proposed amendment. Its website states that its supporters are “Iowans from all political backgrounds, in communities across the state — rural, suburban and urban, Iowans who own guns and those who do not …” (IowansforResponsibleGunLaws.com).
• Visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ backgrounder on gun violence “A Mercy and Peacebuilding Approach to Gun Violence” (https://tinyurl.com/4atbsz3n). The backgrounder includes recommendations on measures to address the problem of gun violence. The bishops urge “Catholics and all people of good will to contact their senators and representatives to support policy and legislative measures that uphold the safety and wellbeing of all persons in our communities.”
We need to address gun violence and its effect on our right to safety for our loved ones, our community at large and ourselves, which the proposed amendment does not.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor