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Proposal at statehouse would allow loaded firearms on school grounds

Iowa State Capitol (Photo: Caroline Cummings)

A proposal making its way through the Iowa statehouse would allow parents to bring a loaded firearm on school grounds if they are dropping off or picking up their children.

A legislative subcommittee gave the green light Wednesday for the bill, which states "a person with a valid nonprofessional permit to carry weapons" may go armed with, carry, or transport a firearm on school grounds when the person is on the grounds as long as the individual is there to pick up or drop off someone, or deliver an item to the school.

It requires that the person with the firearm remain in the school parking lot or driveway, the bill says. Entering the school with a gun---with the exception of law enforcement officials--would still be illegal.

“You should be able to drop your son or daughter off while having your firearm on you," said Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who chairs the committee that will vote on whether to move the proposal forward. “There’s a lot of permit carriers out there who do this and don’t know they’re in violation [of the law]."

Current law allows guns to be on school property if they are unloaded and fastened securely in a compartment of a car or if the school has specifically authorized the person to bring the weapon onto school grounds.

“I can think of schools where you can pull up right beside the school and you’re actually on the public street and you wouldn’t be breaking the law. This is just allowing you to temporarily go on the property," said Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, a retired law enforcement officer.

Opponents call the measure unnecessary and say it could put more children in danger.

“There are too many guns on the streets," said Sen. Claire Celsi, D- West Des Moines. "To me it’s not too much to ask parents to leave their guns at home when they go pick up their kids. You leave your gun at home when you get on a plane, I don’t see too much of a difference."

Iowa State Education Association and the Iowa Association of School Boards are registered against the proposed legislation; the Iowa Firearms Coalition and the Iowa Police Chief Association are for it.

Separately, another bill voted out of a subcommittee Thursday would expand Iowa law to allow peace officers to carry firearms on school grounds, regardless if they are on or off duty.

"A lot of agencies require officers to carry 24 hours per day," said Kinney, who introduced the legislation. "Under the statute, all you have to say is 'I'm working' but we wanted to take some of the grayness out of that."

Both bills will need the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee before moving forward.


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