Living in Society

Changing Gun Culture Politics

Deer in the Park – Photo Credit Heidi Smith

The obvious path to change American gun culture is through voting. Since Republicans have majorities in both chambers of the Iowa legislature and hold the governor’s office, we need to vote them out. This is the crew that advanced a Constitutional Amendment for “strict scrutiny” on firearms restrictions that would prevent the Iowa Legislature from regulating guns. When 90 percent of Americans favor sensible gun regulations, Iowa Republicans are taking us in the wrong direction. We should vote for Democrats.

I reduced my idea to these words on Twitter yesterday.

The response was mostly favorable. There were a few trolls, although I prevented the post from being ratioed by limiting who could reply to it. The tweet remains active and at this writing garnered 17,720 impressions with 1,203 engagements and 704 likes. That’s a lot for the account of an aging Iowan who likes to post artwork, links to my blog posts, newspaper clippings, and local culture stories which include politics.

Let’s get started with the proposed Constitutional Amendment that will appear on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot. Republican Majority Leader Matt Windschitl has been the principal sponsor of legislation easing gun control regulations in Iowa. The seven-term state representative had this to say about the Constitutional Amendment in his Jan. 29, 2021 legislative newsletter:

As many subscribers of this newsletter know the Freedom Amendment is the proposal to enshrine in our state constitution protections for our Second Amendment rights. This proposal is something that House Republicans have been working to advance for the last decade. The language is simple, straightforward and unambiguous. It reads as follows, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” Iowans need and deserve this fundamental protection in our constitution, as we are one of six states who do not currently have these protections in our state constitution.

Words from Windschitl, Jan. 29, 2021 issue.

A more detailed explanation of Winschitl’s reasoning for the “Freedom Amendment” can be found in his March 22, 2018 newsletter, which is here. Simply put, Republicans hold significant majorities in the Iowa House and Senate and are systematically implementing policy, including gun control policy, that Democrats prevented from passage when we held one or both of the chambers. Governor Kim Reynolds is an enabler of the most extreme policies advanced by the legislature.

Perhaps the two most important primary elections answer the questions which Republican will challenge U.S. Representative Cindy Axne in the Third Congressional District, and which Democrat will challenge U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Control of the U.S. House of Representatives is at stake in the four Iowa Congressional races and to ensure there is a chance to retain the House majority, Iowans should elect Democrats. The Fourth Congressional District has been out of reach since Steve King was elected, yet by re-electing Axne and adding Christina Bohannan in the First District and Liz Mathis in the Second, Iowa Democrats will have done their part to retain the House majority and thus will be able to advance legislation like HR-8 and HR-1446 which expand background checks. With the U.S. Senate split 50-48-2 between Republicans, Democrats and Independents, defeating Chuck Grassley is essential to effective gun control.

Whether Deidre DeJear can defeat the great Republican enabler Kim Reynolds is an open question. Since DeJear has no primary challenge she deserves our financial support now. How her campaign will go through November will depend upon what happens in the U.S. Senate race, which has higher visibility than the gubernatorial race. If the electorate is ready for a change in U.S. Senator, as polls suggest, the hope is DeJear will gain coat tails and the possibility of election. She is the best option for improving gun control in Iowa. Vote for Democrat Deidre DeJear because Republicans are removing most gun control.

In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting, Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker posted on Twitter, “We must do what we can, with what we have, and we must do it now.” There is no reasoning with Republicans on gun control. I agree. Democrats must act now. The problem is, we didn’t elect enough of them in 2020 and suffer the vicissitudes of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the current Congress because of it. There will be another Congress and the only effective response to gun violence is to elect Democrats across the board.