- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers gave final approval to a gun-rights bill Thursday, approving a stand-your-ground provision and the right to carry concealed firearms on state Capitol grounds.

The House voted 57-36 for the legislation, which cleared the Senate on Tuesday. It now heads to Gov. Terry Branstad, who in the past has supported gun-rights legislation, but his spokesman was noncommittal.

The final bill represents weeks of back-and-forth between the House and Senate to finesse sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws and regulations. GOP lawmakers have tried for years to advance pro-gun legislation, arguing it would expand Second Amendment rights in Iowa.

“Hundreds of thousands of Iowans feel safer carrying guns,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl, the bill’s floor manager. “It is the ultimate equalizer.”

The bill would also allow residents to sue a local government for enacting a gun-free zone if an individual felt adversely affected. Most elements of the bill would take effect July 1, but a provision to allow minors under 14 to use handguns with parental or guardian supervision would take effect immediately.

The divisive stand-your-ground language in the bill would allow people to use deadly force anywhere if they felt a risk to their life or safety. It also would allow a person to use deadly force even if alternative action is available, and an individual could be wrong in his or her estimation of danger.

Windschitl pushed back against questions of whether the provision could cause unintended consequences, saying the bill does not eliminate the need for using reason with deadly force.

“Just because you’re afraid of someone doesn’t give you the right to shoot them,” he said. “They would have to actually be attacking you. You would have to be in fear of your life.”

Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a Des Moines Democrat, said he worries inherent racial biases will cause people to inaccurately assess deadly force against minority citizens.

“We have individuals that condition other individuals to fear that image,” he said. “That’s why I have to be against this bill.”

Democrats largely opposed the bill for the stand-your-ground allowance, but also criticized concealed-carry permissions on Capitol grounds. Rep. Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, said she would have liked to see more bipartisan amendments.

“Many Democrats support many of the provisions in the bill as a whole, but because we were unable to work together on a few little points, I’m going to be a no,” she said.

Four Democrats supported the legislation in its entirety, while the majority opposed it.

“I understand some folks disagree with some of the provisions in this bill,” Windschitl said. “But by far, we can agree that this will advance Iowan’s individual freedoms and individual liberties.”

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