DES MOINES, Iowa, (Nov. 8, 2022) – Today, Iowa voters approved a ballot measure adding the right to keep and bear arms to the state constitution. Before today’s vote, Iowa was one of only six states without any protection of the right to keep and bear arms in its state constitution.

Voters approved Amendment 1 by a wide margin. At the time of publication, it was easily passing by a 65-35% vote. The constitutional amendment adds the following language to the Iowa state constitution:

“Right to keep and bear arms. Sec. 1A. 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.”

The amendment will make it more difficult for the state to implement gun control and also foster an environment more hostile to federal gun control.

The “strict scrutiny” language in the new amendment will make it very difficult for the state to pass gun control laws and will potentially lead to state courts overturning many existing state and local gun regulations.

Strict scrutiny is the highest legal standard used by courts to determine constitutional questions. Under the strict scrutiny doctrine in the new amendment, the government will have to prove any state or local law relating to firearms in Iowa furthers a “compelling governmental interest.” Additionally, any law must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.

University of Iowa Law professor Todd Petty told KCRG that many existing state gun control laws could be overturned based on the amendment.

“There may be some laws that survive a strict scrutiny analysis from the courts,” he said. “The odds are stacked against regulation and that’s the whole point of the amendment.”

The new state constitutional amendment won’t directly impact federal gun control, but it will subtly undermine federal efforts to regulate guns in the state. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.

The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”

Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.

The tightly worded state constitutional amendment could also lead to a situation where state and local law enforcement in Iowa stop enforcing some federal gun control measures.

The bottom line is that state actions can lower barriers for those wanting the option of defending themselves with firearms and encourage a “gun-friendly” environment that would make federal efforts to limit firearms that much more difficult.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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