Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gun advocates gone wild

Gun owners are asserting their rights in Iowa this year with a spate of legislation that would allow them to own and carry weapons with the least amount of restriction possible. On Jan. 1, a law went into effect that took away county sheriffs' discretion to deny an applicant's permit to carry a concealed gun. Essentially, it creates a uniform standard across the state. It also means law enforcement no longer has a say in what type of gun training is an acceptable prerequisite to receiving a permit. Among the acceptable, apparently, are  online "gun training" courses. The bill was passed by the Legislature last session and signed by former Gov. Chet Culver. For gun rights advocates, that victory seems to have set the tone for the current legislative session. Most prominently, the stand-your-ground bill is going through the Iowa House. Some opponents have dubbed this "House File 007, license to kill." It expands peoples' ability to defend themselves with a gun anywhere they have the legal right to be. Currently, that applies only to a person's home and workplace. Critics have pointed out this changes the expectation that someone should try to descalate a situation --- or just run away --- before turning to deadly force. Practically, what that means is prosecutors have less ability to charge those who shoot someone. Not surprisingly, in at least one state where a similar law has been passed, "justifiable homicides" have risen from a small number to more than 40 each year. The Des Moines Register reports that has been the case in Florida since its law went into effect in 2005. Sounds more lawless than lawful to me. That fact highlights an important point: Gun advocates' legislative push is really more about their rights than anybody's safety.

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