- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation that would lower the age at which children in Iowa could use guns with a parent’s supervision received preliminary approval from a Senate panel Wednesday, though the bill’s sponsor said he’s still trying to round up enough support to advance it.

A three-member judiciary subcommittee approved the bill unanimously. It now heads to a full committee for consideration, though it needs to advance by Friday to beat a procedural deadline in the Legislature.

Current law allows a minor who is at least 14 years old to use a pistol or revolver under direct supervision of a parent or guardian. Sen. Steven Sodders, D-State Center, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation would drop that age to 7 years old under an amendment he introduced. He said it’s intended to allow parents to properly teach their children how to use weapons.

At least one father told the panel the bill could be beneficial.

“The problem with the current law is I as a parent am a felon if I try and teach my kids about gun safety,” said Nathan Gibson, of Johnston.

Several groups spoke about the potential dangers of lowering the age limit.

“Children may have the physical capability to fire a gun, they don’t have the decision-making capability to decide when that should happen, when that should not happen, when they should handle a gun,” said Connie Ryan-Terrell, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa.

The bill would make several changes to Iowa’s gun laws, including when and how a person can apply and renew applications for permits to carry weapons. It would legalize the use of a suppressor to silence a weapon. It also would ban public access to a database of names of people with permits to carry and purchase weapons. Scott Sundstrom, a lobbyist for the Iowa Newspaper Association and Iowa Broadcasters Association, said there are good reasons to keep such records public.

“It provides independent oversight about how the system is functioning,” he said.

Lobbyists for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault said such public records also help victims who are seeking additional information about an abuser. Sodders said he was open to working with the groups to find a compromise.

Sodders said after the meeting that he’s still talking to Senate lawmakers to try to advance the bill. It’s similar to legislation in the House sponsored by Rep. Matt Windschitl, a Missouri Valley Republican. That bill, which has moved out of a subcommittee, does not have an age limit on when a minor can use a gun.

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