As reported in a previous Examiner article, the City of West Burlington (Iowa) currently has an ordinance in place (since 2002) that prohibits law-abiding citizens who possess an Iowa Permit to Carry Weapons from carrying their weapons in buildings owned by the city. When brought to the attention of the NRA and the Iowa Firearms Coalition, both groups have decided that the city’s blatant disregard for state law is a practice that should be ended sooner, rather than later. The fact that the city (illegally) passed the law in 2002 and enjoys the support of noted anti-gun Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller does not make the law any less wrong.
Using that same logic, anyone could break any law that is written simply because an attorney decides that the law would not hold up in court. That is certainly not a situation that lends itself to a civilized society.
In today’s Des Moines Register, columnist Rekha Basu writes a scathing opinion about the NRA and the attempt to get West Burlington to follow the law as it is written. Unfortunately for Rekha, several facts in the opinion are without merit or flat out wrong.
The ordinance passed in 2002, but Trousil says the NRA’s recent interest is the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month overturning handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park, Ill.
Incorrect. The recent interest is due to the fact that the NRA and the IFC is taking a more proactive approach to firearms laws in Iowa. Illegal is illegal. It is hard to comprehend how a city can knowingly break the law and not be held accountable for it. Let’s take a look at the law that makes it illegal to do what West Burlington is currently doing:
724.28 Prohibition of regulation by political subdivisions.
A political subdivision of the state shall not enact an ordinance regulating the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, registration, or licensing of firearms when the ownership, possession, transfer, or transportation is otherwise lawful under the laws of this state. An ordinance regulating firearms in violation of this section existing on or after April 5, 1990, is void.
Read the last sentence closely, then read it again. Since the West Burlington ordinance was passed in 2002 – after April 5, 1990 – the ordinance is void. Therefore, anyone in West Burlington who is arrested and charged under their ordinance would be arrested and charged under a law that simply does not exist, no matter how much Mayor Trousil wishes that was not the case. Would that be false arrest? It would certainly make things interesting for the West Burlington Police Department.
But state law already bans guns in parks and within 1,000 feet of schools, contends Trousil, noting all three of West Burlington’s municipal buildings are within 1,000 feet of schools.
Again, incorrect. There is NO law that prohibits the carrying of weapons within 1000 feet of a school. There is an “enhanced penalty” law that makes the commission of a crime with a firearm within 1000 feet of a school subject to an enhanced penalty. Mayor Trousil and Rekha should research Iowa Code section 724.4 for accurate information.
And there is no city parking garage.
What is the relevance of this statement? Does it make it right to list property that does not exist in an illegal ordinance?
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has said West Burlington’s ban would likely hold up in court.
This is flawed logic that has not been tested. But again, it would be interesting to see how the Iowa AG’s office would feel about citizens who break other laws simply on the face of “it would likely hold up in court.”
It’s hardly impinging on gun owners’ rights to require they surrender their weapons at City Hall. What possible legitimate need could they have for them there? And what business is it of the NRA’s what security measures a city takes? “I’m not saying everybody that owns a gun is a nut job,” said Trousil, who says he’s a gun owner. “Why would anybody need to carry a gun to a council meeting?”
It is directly impinging on gun owners’ rights to deny them that right simply because the Mayor and City Council have no valid reason to do so. Furthermore, it is indeed the business of the NRA and the IFC to protect the gun rights of citizens in Iowa when localities overstep their bounds.
Why would anyone need a gun at a council meeting? Why not? People always bring things to council meetings that they do not end up using or needing. A firearm is no different. But more to the point – the members of the Mount Pleasant City Council in 1986 probably wish someone had a firearm to defend themselves from a disgruntled citizen. Nobody had one, and the citizen was allowed to inflict as much damage as he could, unimpeded.
“That someone did once is what triggered the ordinance. Trousil, who was on the city council then, said a council member noticed a woman in the audience had an open purse with a gun in it. Council members sat within five feet of the public. Though nothing happened, the council passed the ordinance as a precaution.”
That woman probably had a nail file or a pen in her purse too. Though nothing happened, she could have taken either out and stabbed Trousil in the eye, the ear, or worse yet, ruptured his jugular vein. Is it time to ban nail files or pens from council chambers? While it would be far easier to inflict injury or death with a firearm, it does not remove the fact that injury or death is possible with other items as well.
People drive two-ton pieces of machine through West Burlington every day. These pieces of machinery – called automobiles – are capable of inflicting great damage and bodily harm when misused. In fact, more people are hurt or killed as a result of automobiles every year than a a result of firearms. In order to maintain a safe city, should West Burlington ban automobiles? Perhaps they should at least be kept away from City Hall.
The mayor of Mount Pleasant was shot to death at a city council meeting there in 1986. Trousil said he and council members have received threatening letters and phone calls saying things like, “What happened in Mount Pleasant can happen in West Burlington.”
Indeed it can. But any society that removes freedom and liberty in the name of security will in the end have neither. It is impossible to remove every threat to every member of City Council. That is a side-effect of having that job, or the position of any other elected official.
Every day 300 people in the United States are shot, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In 2006, 31,000 people died from gun violence. “We all have families,” noted Trousil.”
Again, compare those statistics to automobile injuries and deaths, and see which one wins. Citizens have families as well, and they have a God-given right to defend themselves and their loved ones from those who would do them harm with the most effective tool available to do so. That right does not end at an imaginary line that separates City Hall from the rest of Iowa.
Iowans already have plenty of gun rights. But those have to be balanced against a city’s need to take safety precautions to protect the public and staff. West Burlington is right. The NRA is barking up the wrong tree. At least it has met its match.
If West Burlington is so concerned about the safety of the public and staff in the council chambers, perhaps they should install metal detectors and post armed security at those detectors. But since metal detectors can be defeated, and other objects that can maim or kill can still be within five feet of a council member, perhaps a strip search of everyone entering the chamber is in order? Where do you draw the line?
The simple fact that is conveniently overlooked by Mayor Trousil and Rekha Basu is that West Burlington is acting in an illegal manner, and there is no excuse for that action. It is hypocritical to expect the citizens of West Burlington to act in accordance with the laws of the city when the city itself cannot do so. “Do as I say, not as I do.” It is doubtful that the NRA and IFC have met their match. Rather, it is time for the City of West Burlington to obey the law, and if they have a problem with the law as it is written, they should seek to change that law the way any other locality or citizen would be expected to do. Otherwise, they are committing nothing less than tyranny.
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