By BILL SHEA
Messenger staff writer
A proposal that supporters say would give people in Iowa greater legal protection to use a gun to defend themselves fueled disagreement between two lawmakers serving Webster County Saturday morning.
State Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said he supports what's commonly called the stand-your-ground bill. He said that a person's ability to defend themself without being arrested is ''one of our basic rights of mankind.''
State Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said the measure won't pass the Senate and added that any change to gun laws that would enable anyone to carry a weapon anytime would be ''ludicrous.''
Their exchange during Saturday's Eggs and Issues forum was a small indication of the kind of debate that may happen in the state Capitol as the stand-your-ground bill and other gun legislation is considered.
During the forum, area legislators also discussed the merits of virtual schools which provide instruction online rather than in a traditional classroom.
And Kibbie said that he'll use his leadership position to kill a measure that would ban traffic camera systems like the one used to enforce speed limits in Fort Dodge.
Other state lawmakers at the session were Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, and representatives Stewart Iverson, R-Clarion, and Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge.
About 100 people attended the forum, held at Iowa Central Community College. It was sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and the college.
Advocates of the stand-your-ground proposal claim it will empower people to defend themselves in a life-threatening situation.
''The stand-your-ground bill does nothing more than uphold what our state constitution says when it says we have the right to defend our life,'' Shaw said.
''We have an attorney general that has sent mixed signals out to county attorneys saying that people have the duty to retreat first when they're faced with a life-threatening situation,'' he added. ''The danger is there's some people that physically can't retreat and with that understanding in the process of trying to retreat are further endangering their life.''
''This is one of our basic rights of mankind is to be able to defend yourself without fear of being charged for defending your life,'' he said.
Iverson said he doesn't think ''anything unreasonable is going to happen'' regarding gun laws.
Kibbie, however, said the Senate will block any changes.
''We will not be supporting, in the Senate, liberalizing the right to carry law in Iowa,'' he said.
Beall said the Senate Education Committee, of which he is a member, is working on a proposal to regulate virtual schools.
He said committee members have talked about a rule which would state that students could not take more than half of their classes in a virtual format.
Another proposal would require an Iowa-licensed educator to be involved in the virtual school, according to Beall.
He said there is a question of whether such school can legally operate in Iowa. Beall said a legal opinion on that subject is being sought from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
Kibbie said some virtual school operators are based in other states.
''To send state dollars and property taxes out of state to provide K-12 education, that's a no-no,'' he said.
''There's nothing better than teachers in the classroom,'' he added.
A bill to outlaw traffic camera systems was approved by the House Public Safety Committee early this year and awaits action by the full House.
Kibbie said the bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate if it is passed by the House.
''It's not going anywhere,'' he said.
The senator said people have nothing to fear from traffic cameras if they obey the speed limit and other traffic laws.
''The fact is that it has slowed people down,'' Beall said.
The Senate president added that his chamber will not advance a bill calling for a referendum on defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
On a different topic, Miller reported that the House budget proposal contains $1.2 million for capping agriculture drainage wells.
She added that she has been working with the Department of Natural Resources to get a state conservation officer assigned to Webster County.
''I was told there was really no hope to get one,'' she said.
However, she said DNR officials have said Webster County will be be the top priority if there is a chance to add an officer.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org