Governor Terry Branstad signed into law, on Thursday, a controversial expansion of gun rights legislation in the state of Iowa. House File 517 grants Iowa citizens the right to actively defend themselves by use of deadly force, clarifies that the possession of a loaded or concealed firearm cannot justify a presumption of intent, and extends the formerly annual firearm permit to a five-year permit.
Possibly the most controversial provision in the bill is the “stand your ground” statute, which states that citizens do not have the duty to retreat before using potentially deadly force when life or property is threatened. With this provision, the individual is also dutifully responsible for contacting law enforcement and preventing any destruction or tampering of evidence.
The concept of “stand your ground” has been a hotly debated topic in the discussion of gun-control ever since the law legally justified the actions of Florida resident, George Zimmerman, when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, upon being confronted and attacked. Moreover, this case has provoked a racially charged hysteria around “stand your ground”. It is my belief that a “stand your ground” statute promotes personal safety and liberty from potentially violent or dangerous situations.
A study conducted at Texas A&M found that in “stand your ground” states the use of potentially lethal defense by whites against blacks was found justifiable in 17 percent of cases, while the use of potentially lethal defense by blacks against whites was found justifiable in only 1 percent of cases. On the surface, this appears quite problematic, however there are significant statistics that the study does not take into account. For example, between 1980 and 2008, black Americans composed 13 percent of the U.S. population and committed 52 percent of the homicides.
These actions skew the crime statistics to give an appearance of racial prejudice in “stand your ground” cases. This is not always the case. The examples used in this study consisted only of courtroom jury decisions which, by definition, must remain impartial and unbiased in order to maintain legality and validity. Therefore, it is not possible for “stand your ground” legislation to be racially charged in intent.
The bill also allows children below the age of 14 the right to handle a handgun or revolver while “under the direct supervision” of a parent, guardian, or instructor. While gun-control activists seek to keep children away from firearms, this portion of the bill is an instrumental measure in educating youth in the safety and responsibility of handling firearms, at an influential age, and from qualified individuals.
According to the Center for Disease Control Fatal Injury Report in 2013, only one child (age 14 or under) was killed on an average day nationwide as a result of a firearm. This includes homicide, accidental death, and suicide—which accounts for 26 percent of these deaths. Based on these statistics, an Iowa child has a less than 0.002 percent chance of being intentionally or accidentally killed by a firearm. By requiring supervision under the law, the bill would ideally prevent children from using guns without the presence of a parent or guardian, thus maintaining safety.
Prior to Branstad signing the bill, the House Republican caucus’ weekly newsletter read, “After 7 years of hard work, House Republicans successfully passed a comprehensive bipartisan bill protecting Second Amendment Rights for Iowans.” While the final draft of HF 517 was constructed by a bipartisan committee of senators, gun-control activists argue that the bill goes too far by permitting concealed carry in public spaces. Unfortunately for these left-leaning groups, public concealed possession of firearms (and many other weapons for that matter) has been legal in the state of Iowa for many years. HF 517 merely extends this legislation to government buildings that are not gun-free zones—which have become open season for mass shooters in the U.S.
The truth is, we go throughout our daily lives never knowing if the person next to us is carrying a concealed firearm. If he is, what’s his intent? The purpose of concealed carry is personal and public safety, while the goal is to ensure the weapon remains unseen. If he isn’t carrying, what are his measures of protection? Should he trust that he will always be physically capable of defending himself or his family when situations escalade? He could always call law enforcement, but (according to the Women’s Self-Defense Institute) the average police response time is about 10 minutes. When minutes count and life is on the line, what’s the best precaution: a concealed firearm or a phone call to your local dispatcher?
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The limited legislation of the people’s right to own and use firearms is an essential guarantee for individual liberty and safety as an American citizen. The evidence and statistics are clear—areas of the U.S. with the highest levels of gun-control regulations tend to be the more violent and crime-ridden. The best option for allowing citizens to maintain personal safety is by allowing them to accept the value and responsibility of their own protection.