DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Officials have voted to declare two Iowa counties as Second Amendment sanctuaries where any laws hindering gun rights cannot be enforced, joining similar efforts across the country and coming even as Iowa has significantly loosened firearms regulations.
Republican supervisors in Jasper County unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday and Republican supervisors in Hardin County did the same Wednesday, becoming the first Iowa counties to implement such measures.
Elsewhere in the U.S., at least 1,200 local governments have declared themselves sanctuaries insulated from state and federal gun laws since 2018, when high-profile mass shootings prompted calls for stronger regulations. An ordinance passed in Columbia County, Oregon, last year is the first to face a legal challenge over whether it can be enforced.
The Iowa resolutions say the county supervisors want to ensure that citizens' rights are protected against legislation on the state or federal level.
The Jasper County resolution says federal and state lawmakers cannot be solely trusted to protect people's Second Amendment rights and that any legislation or order from a federal or state legislature or executive that infringes on constitutional gun rights “shall not be enforced by an individual employed by the Jasper County Sheriff’s office or any other employee of Jasper County.”
“Let’s hope it is never needed,” said Supervisor Doug Cupples.
Supervisor Brandon Talsma said the Second Amendment “has come under attack again and again and we wanted to make it clear that Jasper County will defend its citizens civil liberties.”
Iowa is among several Republican-led states that have passed laws allowing for carrying of guns without requirement of a permit. The law that took effect July 1 also eliminates a requirement that people pass background checks to obtain permits to purchase handguns in sales outside of those completed by federally licensed dealers.
Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows that gun deaths have been surging in the state before passage of the new law.
A record 353 Iowa residents died from gunshot wounds in 2020, including 263 suicides and 85 homicides, public health data shows. The shooting deaths represent a 23% increase from Iowa’s previous high of 287 in 2019, including an 80% jump in homicides.
In Hardin County, about 65 miles northeast of Des Moines, seven people spoke on the issue Wednesday morning. Four men supported the measure, with one talking about his fear the federal government will take away his rights and another arguing it will “limit how far the government can go.”
Two women opposed the resolution.
“This is just a piece of political theater throwing red meat to a certain set of voters who you want to keep their attention so they vote because they're the least likely group to vote,” Julie Duhn said. “Do any of you supervisors actually believe there will be legislation to take everybody’s guns? Its ludicrous.”
The fear of regulation eroding gun rights comes as Democrats in Congress are making a new push to enact the first major new gun control laws in more than two decades — starting with stricter background checks. However, passage appears unlikely because the legislation would likely need bipartisan support.
President Joe Biden has called for Congress to strengthen gun laws, including requiring the background checks on all gun sales and banning assault weapons.
A group advocating for stricter gun control said local politicians and law enforcement officials don't get to decide which laws they enforce.
"Our leaders should be focusing on common sense gun safety protections that will keep our communities safe, instead of refusing to enforce public safety laws that actually make a difference,” said Traci Kennedy, chapter leader of the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action.
This story is updated to correct the spelling of the last name of the Hardin County woman quoted to Duhn instead of Dunn.