Apparently, some members of the Iowa Legislature have far too much time on their hands.
Despite all of the pressing issues facing lawmakers, including school funding and water quality, some of them are pursuing legislation that would make it legal for Iowans to carry loaded firearms while driving or riding on all-terrain vehicles or snowmobiles.
Currently, Iowa law prohibits firearms on ATVs and snowmobiles unless the weapons are unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case. The law exists not only to protect people from bullets accidentally fired as these vehicles bounce over rough terrain, but to discourage hunting from moving vehicles. Under a separate Iowa law, one can use a snowmobile or ATV to go hunting in Iowa, but it is illegal for hunters to use the vehicles to chase game, or to assist in taking the animals.
Amazingly, some Republican lawmakers think — or claim to think — that this restriction infringes on people’s constitutional right to defend themselves. Last week, a House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Brian Best, a Republican lawmaker from Glidden, approved a bill that would eliminate the law.
Gov. Branstad’s Department of Natural Resources is staying neutral on the proposal, so it falls to the Iowa State Snowmobile Association and Iowans for Gun Safety to plead for common sense. Both organizations are opposed to the change in Iowa law.
Rep. Liz Bennett, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, has expressed concern about the potential for accidental shootings. Republican lawmakers say such concerns are unfounded, but just four days before this bill was introduced in the Iowa House, a Wisconsin teenager was accidentally shot in the leg while hunting rabbits with a friend on an ATV.
Lawmakers should also be mindful of the fact that under Iowa law, children of any age can ride on, or even drive, an ATV, regardless of the vehicle’s weight and size, on privately owned land. Do they really want to add loaded, uncased guns to that mix?