One of Iowa’s legislative bodies has passed a bill to allow children to handle handguns.
The state’s House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would permit children younger than 14 to use “a pistol, revolver or the ammunition” while under direct parental supervision.
The bill — which was debated among other gun proposals and is now headed to the Iowa Senate — has been a polarizing issue in the state.
“What this bill does, the bill before us, allows for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds to operate handguns,” state Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D) said earlier this week, according to CBS-affiliate KCCI.
“We do not need a militia of toddlers.”
The current law has no restrictions on children using long guns or shotguns under their parents’ instruction but prohibits them from using handguns.
State Rep. Jake Highfill (R) said the new bill, which passed 62-36, “brings the code in line with long guns and shotguns” by allowing children to also use handguns under direct supervision from a parent or legal guardian.
It defines supervision as “supervision provided by another person who maintains visual and verbal contact at all times with the supervised person.”
“Allowing people to learn at a young age the respect that a gun commands is one of the most important things you can do,” Highfill told The Washington Post. The alternative, he said, is “turning 18 with no experience.”
Highfill said the bill “gives the power back to parents” to make the decisions.
Under the law, children could not, however, purchase a firearm on their own.
Meredith and Natalie Gibson, who are 12 and 10 respectively, told KCCI that they have been shooting since they were 5, under their father’s supervision.
“It’s only dangerous if you handle it wrong,” Natalie told the news station. “You never point a gun at somebody.”
The girls, who are Scholastic Shooters and participate in youth shooting events, have been lobbying the legislature to amend the current law.
Their father, Nathan Gibson, told The Post that much of Iowa is “farm country” where parents teach their children to shoot pistols and revolvers on open land, and where some children — such as his — enjoy shooting for sport.
Until the past few years, he said, restrictions on children using “guns their size” were not enforced.
“Most people in Iowa don’t even know it’s on the books,” Gibson said about the current restrictions.
Gibson said the new bill would give them freedom.
But those who opposed it express safety concerns.
During the debates earlier this week, state Rep. Mary Mascher (D) brought up the case of a 9-year-old girl in Arizona who accidentally shot and killed her shooting range instructor with an Uzi.
“Unfortunately the instructor and the parents made the wrong decision and someone died,” she said, according to Iowa Public Radio. “Every three hours in this country a child dies from gun violence.”
Gibson noted that Iowa’s law already allowed children to shoot such guns — just not handguns.
Highfill said the new bill is “something that was needed.”
He said parents should have be able to make decisions for their children.
“This is something the government should not be involved with,” he said.