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by John Feinblatt
Every four years, the national media looks to Iowa for stories about where American voters stand on pressing issues.
After what happened this spring here in Des Moines, it’s clear where Iowans stand on guns and public safety — and how Iowans made their voices heard is a story that deserves to be told.
It starts in the Statehouse, where the NRA’s lobbyists pushed Senate File 425. The bill set out to overturn a longstanding background check requirement on private handgun sales. In effect, the gun lobby wanted to get rid of a provision that helps ensure guns sold at places like gun shows and via the Internet are subject to the same rules as guns sold at federally licensed dealers.
In quickly advancing the bill to the floor, gun lobby-aligned lawmakers conveniently avoided talking about what the bill would actually do. They went so far as to say that that the bill was focused on “safety improvements.” They also touted the bill’s other provisions, including those that would streamline the law to ease some restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. The lobbyists never mentioned repealing background checks. That makes sense, since 88 percent of Iowans support the background check policy.
In the run-up to the final vote on the Senate floor, I reached out to Republican strategists in Iowa to see whether the NRA could be stopped.
“Not a chance,” longtime political observers told me. “They’re too powerful and once they’ve gotten something on the floor, there’s no way to beat them.”
We’ve heard that line for years. Too often, we’ve taken it for granted. The truth is, there’s only one way to find out if the conventional wisdom is actually accurate: show up and fight back.
And that’s what we did.
The Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, went to work. Iowa moms made nearly 5,000 phone calls to state senators, explaining what the bill really would do. They held an advocacy day and delivered petitions filled with signatures. They ran informational advertisements in newspapers across the state.
Most important, they talked face to face with their friends and neighbors.
In the end, the so-called experts were wrong. The Legislature never passed the bill, and the “unbeatable” gun lobby saw its top legislative priority in Iowa defeated.
The lesson we should take from Iowa is simple, and bears repeating.
When people know what’s in a bill —when legislators understand the consequences of what they’re voting on — they’ll do the right thing.
Using misleading language to mask a bill’s true purpose may have worked in the past, but it didn’t this time. Once we got away from the horse-trading lobbyists at the Capitol and into cities and towns throughout the state, we saw that the public wanted to keep the background check system in place. Iowans know that keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous felons is just common sense. Like the vast majority of Americans, they believe that Second Amendment rights go hand in hand with basic safety measures.
The defeat of SF 425 is more than just a political victory, though. Iowans will be safer as a result of its defeat. We know this because in nearby Missouri, legislators overturned a background check requirement in 2007 and the results were deadly. Research by the scholar Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, found that after Missouri did the gun lobby’s bidding and gutted its background check system, the state’s gun homicide rate increased by nearly 25 percent. We know, too, that the gun suicide rate in Iowa is 27 percent lower than in states that lack comprehensive background check measures.
Ultimately, the win in Iowa serves as yet another reminder that when you try new approaches and get voters engaged on an issue, powerful interests can be defeated.
When the people go head to head against the gun lobby, the people —and public safety —can prevail.
John Feinblatt is the president of Everytown for Gun Safety. Contact: email@example.com
Progress Iowa has done an exemplary job of exposing the workings of ALEC in Iowa and holding conservatives accountable. Click here to check out Progress Iowa’s website. Please support them if you can. Video below is news coverage by a Mason City local TV station, KIMT.
Congressman Steve King and Senator Joni Ernst accepted thousands of dollars from a white supremacist linked to the tragic shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. A petition launched by Progress Iowa was signed by more than 1,000 in less than 4 hours, and led to both King and Ernst using those donations to support the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, in support of the shooting’s victims.
“We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.”
On March 23, 2010, I sat down at a table in the East Room of the White House and signed my name on a law that said, once and for all, that health care would no longer be a privilege for a few. It would be a right for everyone.
Five years later, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law and multiple challenges before the Supreme Court, here is what we know today:
This law worked. It’s still working. It has changed and saved American lives. It has set this country on a smarter, stronger course.
And it’s here to stay.
If that means something to you today, add your voice here. Tell us how the Affordable Care Act has impacted your family’s life and health.
This morning, the Supreme Court upheld one of the most critical parts of health reform — the part that has made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance, no matter where you live.
If the challenges to this law had succeeded, millions would have had thousands of dollars in tax credits taken away. Insurance would have once again become unaffordable for many Americans. Many would have even become uninsured again. Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up.
Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about 8 in 10 people who buy insurance on the new Health Insurance Marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.
If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far. That’s because of this law. If you’re a senior, or have a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far. If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman. Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms. They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care.
And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who got sick. Because that’s something this law has ended for good.
Five years in and more than 16 million insured Americans later, this is no longer just about a law. This isn’t just about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Today is a victory for every American whose life will continue to become more secure because of this law. And 20, 30, 50 years from now, most Americans may not know what “Obamacare” is. And that’s okay. That’s the point.
Because today, this reform remains what it always has been — a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you.
That’s who we are as Americans. We look out for one another. We take care of each other. We root for one another’s success. We strive to do better, to be better, than the generation before us, and we try to build something better for the generation that comes behind us.
And today, with this behind us, let’s come together and keep building something better. That starts right now.
President Barack Obama
A bipartisan bill to expand broadband internet access to more homes, schools and businesses was signed into law by Governor Branstad last week. The bill also contains language regarding uniformity for local governments when approving cell tower siting applications.
Communication providers identified the cost of laying fiber optics as one of, if not the, main barrier to expansion of broadband service into rural Iowa. Under House File 641, a provider can apply for and receive a ten-year property tax exemption for the installation of broadband in identified targeted areas. The Legislature also created a Broadband Grant Fund that providers can access for assistance, up to 15% of qualified installation projects.
A targeted service area is one that is defined to an area that doesn’t have a communication service provider that offers or facilitates broadband service at or above 25 megabits per second of download speed and 3 megabits per second of upload speed. The property tax exemption will be for projects that begin on or after July 1, 2015, and will no longer be available for projects beginning July 1, 2020.
Cell Tower Siting
A uniform process was created for the location of new cell towers, modifications of existing cell towers, and collocation of cell towers and the rights and responsibilities of local governments for approval of the towers. The goal of the legislation is find the right balance between how much information must be provided by the cell tower applicant and how much authority a local government can have over these decisions.
Applicants (cell tower companies) will be required to provide an explanation as to why they are asking to build new rather than to collocate with an existing tower. Local governments feel that this information is important to help them in make an unbiased decision. Likewise, local governments must approve an application for a new tower in 150 days, or the application is automatically approved. This gives applicants a definitive timeline to help with their business decisions.
A message from DVIP following the recent shooting at Coral Ridge mall:
Eastern Iowa – we love our communities and the quality of life we enjoy here. But we are becoming more aware of the rising rate of violence related to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and child abduction. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation and limited information about the relationship between Andrea Farrington and the alleged assailant, this is not a commentary on that case, but a response to the escalation of violence against women in the Eastern Iowa Corridor.
Small town Iowa has always been synonymous with safe homes, but 6 of the past 11 domestic homicides in Iowa have been in the Eastern Iowa 380 Corridor or Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Marion and Cedar Rapids [bolding BFIA’s]. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program provides the only emergency safe shelter in our eight county service area (Johnson, Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Lee, Van Buren and Washington Counties).
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program not only helps victims of domestic violence, but also victims of dating violence, child abductions related to domestic violence and stalking. Stalking is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear”. Over 85% of victims are stalked by someone they know—in domestic violence or dating violence, a victim is stalked by their intimate partner for an average of 21 months AFTER they leave their abusive partner. Of the 7.5 million people stalked each year in the United States, 15% of women and 6% of men have experienced stalking to the point where they felt very fearful or believed that they, or someone close to them, would be harmed or killed.
How a community responds to victims of violent crime is critical and requires an investment on everyone’s part to reduce crimes like stalking and domestic/dating violence. Our communities are strong and practice a national model Coordinated Community Response, which is a series of cross agency protocols and safety measures put in place by the community— advocates, health/mental health care workers, law enforcement, courts, child welfare workers—to collectively support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. But these systems often address the back end of the problem – after the crime has been committed. Our current Coordinated Community Response models lack one key element, a Bystander Network of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers looking out for and supporting victims. Bystander support networks have the capacity to intervene and prevent these crimes through thoughtful, caring support of victims and challenges to the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate violence against women.
To have effective community change, you need to know the facts about stalking or domestic/dating violence and how to really help someone in fear.
First, call our 24-hour crisis line (1-800-373-1043) to get real information on how you can help.
Second, with guidance from our trained staff and volunteers, talk to your friend/family/colleague about the situation in a way that is respectful to their safety and needs—they know the situation better than anyone else, and how to best keep themselves safe or the resources they need.
Third, ask what they really need; learn as much as you can from them about what they fear, what they hope for and what will change their situation for the better. And then most important – help them get what they need. Too many times we look in from the outside and make assumptions about what should happen – too many times those assumptions are wrong.
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program’s mission statement is to provide comprehensive support and advocacy services. To that end, we offer training to businesses and corporations to evaluate policies surrounding workplace stalking and domestic/dating violence, what to do to help prevent an incident at the workplace and how to safety plan with your employees when violence comes into the workplace.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a workplace environment safety assessment and more information on policy and training addressing stalking and domestic/dating violence in the workplace.
Situations like Andrea Farrington’s are becoming much too commonplace in Eastern Iowa. We need to keep the conversation going about how we can keep victims of stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence safe.