Iowa voters approve ‘right to bear arms’ amendment

Photo credit: Joped via Creative Commons

Voters in Iowa on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that will enshrine the right to bear arms in the state constitution and establish a strict scrutiny test for any alleged intrusion on that right.

The amendment, referred to voters by state lawmakers, passed with 65% of the vote. 

“We have more civil rights protections this morning than we did yesterday,” the Iowa Firearms Coalition said in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. “Be proud that history has been made.”

Iowa joins more than 40 other states that establish gun rights in their constitutions. However, it becomes one of only four states – including Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri – to include a strict scrutiny clause.

That means any laws restricting guns in Iowa that are challenged in court would face the highest possible test of constitutionality.

Giffords, a national gun violence prevention group led by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), opposed the amendment when it passed the legislature.

“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 group said.

Majority Republicans in the Iowa legislature have worked for several years to send a right-to-bear-arms constitutional amendment to voters. It had to pass the legislature twice before it went to voters for final approval.

Iowa generally takes a hands-off approach to regulating guns, according to tracking by Giffords. The state does not require universal background checks for the purchase of a firearm or restrict so-called assault weapons or magazine capacity. But Iowa does have a law requiring safe storage of firearms and a so-called “red flag” law limiting access to guns for people who have a domestic violence protection order against them.

In 2021, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a law that removed the requirement that people who want to carry a concealed pistol must first pass a background check. About half of states allow “permitless carry.”