- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Johnston father of two young daughters is joining with gun-rights advocates in seeking a change to an Iowa law that makes it illegal for children younger than 14 to fire handguns.

Nathan Gibson told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1j0hToK ) he was inspired to change the law after being told at a shooting range last weekend that his 8-year-old daughter, Natalie, wasn’t old enough to shoot her handgun.

Natalie and her 10-year-old sister, Meredith, have been joining their father at shooting ranges since age 5. After being politely asked to leave, Gibson said Natalie was in tears as they packed up their gear.

“She was upset because she thought she did something wrong,” Gibson said. “I had to explain to both my daughters what had happened and why.”

Iowa has long banned handgun use by children younger than 14. Between age 14 and 20, people can fire handguns if they are under the direct supervision of a parent or instructor. There is no age limit on the use of long guns, as the assumption has been they are for hunting and that parents and their children should be allowed to join for such activities.

Those seeking to change the handgun law said shooting ranges have recently begun enforcing the age limit more closely because of a failed effort to change the law.

This legislative session, Sen. Joe Riding, D-Altoona, proposed lowering the age limit from 14 to 12. That effort failed after the group Iowa Gun Owners called for removing the age restriction all together.

Aaron Dorr, executive director of Iowa Gun Owners, said he demanded an end to the age restriction because he thought some Democrats who supported the more limited change wanted to portray themselves in upcoming elections as gun-rights supporters for backing “a tiny tweak in the law.”

Dorr said he’d renew efforts to end the age restriction by widely distributing links to videos Gibson and his daughters posted online that advocate for the change.

Some want the current limits retained.

Kathleen Adams, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, said handguns are used for personal protection and not hunting. By teaching children about handgun use, adults imply it’s appropriate to use them during certain dangerous situations, with or without supervision, said Adams, who testified against the proposed age limit change measure earlier this year.

“We should teach them ways to solve conflicts that don’t involve guns,” Adams said. “And it’s really important for kids to have confidence that their world is safe and that the adults in their world are going to keep them safe.”

Gibson said he wants his daughters to learn that guns are a tool and should be used properly.

“I’m not a revolutionary guy. I’m not trying to overthrow the government. But I’m trying to teach them that guns have a purpose, and why they’re important,” he said.

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