DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Children under 14 would be able to use handguns with parental supervision in Iowa under a bill approved Tuesday by the Republican-majority House, as the chamber's lawmakers passed several measures to expand gun rights in the state.
The five bills now head to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it's unclear if they will get enough support to advance.
Among the bills debated was the measure to allow a child of any age to use a pistol or revolver with direct supervision of a parent or guardian. Current law allows children 14 and older to do so. The measure was originally part of a comprehensive gun bill last session that did not advance.
"This bill is one of the best bills we've done to advance Second Amendment rights of Iowans," said Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston. "It returns the power back to where it fully belongs. Back in the hands of parents to make those decisions they are entitled to do instead of the government."
Dozens of supporters representing the Iowa Firearms Coalition sat in the gallery ahead of the final 62-36 vote. They wore bright orange stickers that read, "I support the Second Amendment and I vote."
Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, wore a sticker but he expressed opposition to the bill.
"This is not about the Second Amendment," he said. "This is about putting more guns in the hands of children."
The other bills included a measure specifying that state officials can't prohibit or curtail lawful gun possession during a state of emergency. Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton, spoke for the bill but could not point to an example of a state of emergency in Iowa in which that allowance would have played a role. Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, described the legislation as a scare ploy. It passed 67-31.
A bill that would legalize the use of suppressors passed 74-24, and one to allow people to carry a loaded weapon on an all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile was approved 78-20.
Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, spoke in support of a bill that would streamline the process for renewing a permit to carry a weapon. The measure, which passed 97-1, includes language that would restrict public access to information about gun owners. Some lawmakers expressed support after it was amended earlier in the session to consider accommodations for domestic violence victims.
Windschitl applauded the chamber's efforts to pass individual legislation after the comprehensive bill failed to advance.
"We're out there advancing the cause of Second Amendment rights and allowing Iowans to have the freedoms that they rightfully deserve," he said.
The Rev. Cheryl Thomas, policy director with Iowans for Gun Safety, said some of the legislation is "designed to weaken Iowa's gun laws." She said her organization was particularly against the handgun bill that removes age restrictions. The group plans to lobby its concerns to the Senate.
"Listening to the floor debate, it becomes very clear that there is almost no concern for safety," she said, "only concern for rights."