Children of all ages in Iowa would be able to lay down their toy guns and pick up the real thing under a bill that passed the state House of Representatives.
The measure approved Tuesday by 62-36 vote would allow children 14 or younger to possess “a pistol, revolver or the ammunition” under parental supervision. It now heads for the state Senate.
“We do not need a militia of toddlers,” state Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D) said on the House floor. Running-Marquardt, joined by other statehouse Democrats, said she balked at a bill that "allows for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds to operate handguns.”
Logically, this bill is completely ridiculous" Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D)
Statehouse Republicans, including the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jake Highfill, said the the legislation was an issue of parents' rights designed to correct "an injustice in Iowa code” that now forbids children 14 and younger from handling pistols.
Highfill said his measure would bring the law on children's use of handguns in line with regulations for shotguns and rifles, which don't restrict the age of children using them under parental supervision. Current Iowa law makes it a felony for a parent or guardian to allow a child younger than 14 to handle a pistol. Older children may do so with supervision.
“Allowing people to learn at a young age the respect that a gun commands is one of the most important things you can do,” Highfill told The Washington Post on Wednesday. The alternative, he said, is “turning 18 with no experience.”
Parents, Highfill noted, must be at least 21 years old and would have to maintain "visual and verbal contact" with the armed child.
“Logically, this bill is completely ridiculous,” said Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D).
“We can’t legislate good parenting … but we can protect our children,” said Rep. Mary Mascher (D).
“While most parents would not allow their 2-year-old to wield a revolver, we pass laws for those parents who lack the parenting skills needed to protect their own children,” Mascher said, citing seat belt, smoking and car seat laws.
Mascher cited the case of a 9-year-old Arizona girl who in 2014 accidentally killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi. The girl said she felt the weapon was too much for her and hurt her shoulder, according to the police report.
Rep. Art Staed (D), who said he's a hunter who supports the Second Amendment, said the legislation is a public health threat and not gun rights issue.
"I would not allow my children to have access to guns," Staed said.
Iowan Nathan Gibson told local news station KCCI he's been shooting guns with his daughters since they were 5.
Sisters Meredith Gibson, 12, and Natalie Gibson, 10, were among those lobbying in favor of the bill. Natalie told the station a gun is only dangerous if handled wrong.