Iowa Poised To Approve Controversial Gun-Rights Measures

The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association, allows for children under 14 to use handguns.

(Reuters) - Iowa lawmakers approved on Thursday amended legislation that would enact sweeping changes to the state’s gun regulations, including a “stand your ground” provision, and sent it to the governor for final approval.

The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association, says a law-abiding person does not have to retreat before using deadly force.

A similar measure in Florida was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder after the law was included in jury instructions.

At least 24 other states have similar measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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The Iowa bill allows for children under the age of 14 to use handguns while under the supervision of an adult who is 21 or older. It also says gun owners with permits can bring concealed handguns into capitol buildings.

Republican state Representative Matt Windschitl said on the House floor on Thursday the bill was, “the most monumental piece of Second Amendment legislation this state has ever seen.”

The bill also would make gun permits valid for five years, with a background check required when the permit is issued. Under the current law, permits are valid for one year with an annual background check.

The bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday and the House last month. The House voted on it again on Thursday to approve changes made in the Senate before advancing it to the desk of Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

A spokesman for Branstad said in an email that the governor will review the bill.

The bill has been criticized by gun control advocates, who say it could increase gun violence.

“We have had very good gun laws,” the Reverend Cheryl Thomas of Iowans for Gun Safety said by telephone. “With the passage of this law, we are going to lose that status.”

Iowans for Gun Safety wants Branstad to veto the measure.

Previous attempts to change the state’s gun regulations have been blocked by Democrats, who held a majority in the Senate until November.

Following the election, Republican lawmakers control the Senate, House and governor’s office for the first time in nearly two decades.

Republicans have used their majority to push through a number of bills during this legislative session, including drastic changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws.

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Alison Lundergan Grimes

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