New Iowa Gun Law Creates Confusion, Conflict And Likely Lawsuits

A new Iowa gun law expands the state’s stand-your-ground provision, but people who have to enforce it say it's too vague.

Iowans no longer have to retreat in a public place before using deadly force – that’s the result of a new gun law that took effect in the state this month. But it’s creating an abundance of concern and confusion. 

Sheriff Dave Drew of Woodbury County says he’ll continue to enforce a no-guns-allowed policy at the county courthouse, even as the county supervisors insist the courthouse ban should no longer apply. Drew says he is complying with a June order from the Iowa Supreme Court, which limits the ability to carry weapons in justice centers.

“I’m an officer of the court, I have been for the 36 years I’ve been doing this job, and I don’t have that luxury to tell the judge, ‘You know, I don’t agree with that,’” he says. 

Opponents of the law are worried that it may actually increase violence in the state.

Vagueness encourages lawsuits

Meanwhile, the Iowa Legislature has been criticized for the vagueness of the bill. Drew says he’s aware that by limiting where firearms can be carried, he’s opening himself up to lawsuits – but believes he’s on solid legal ground to win such a case.

The state law now says an Iowan can sue any city, county or township that passes a firearms ban if the individual believes they are adversely affected by it. And as county officials butt heads over how to interpret the new law, Drew says the disagreement in his county isn’t personal – just part of the nature of county business.

“Each elected official, office holder, is autonomous, in that they don’t answer to the Board of Supervisors – but they answer to the public every four years,” he explains. 

Elsewhere in the state, the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors has publicly stated that it will also abide by the state Supreme Court order, noting it will likely take a legal battle to ultimately resolve the issue.

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