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The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Todd Dorman column

Todd Dorman, CR Gazette –

Got tied up with other things yesterday, so I neglected to comment on the Big Democratic Statehouse Walkout of 2012, and its battle cry, thundering across the state. “Remember the Blue Calendar!”

I wasn’t walking out on the walkout, I swear.

It was a curiosity, to be sure, but not surprising. House Democrats are in the minority 60-40. And all minorities can really do to remain even slightly relevant is to pull stunts, unleash gimmicks, and try various tactics to slow down the train. Because, in the end, the majority will shove what ever it wants through to passage, and down the minority’s throat.

In this case, it was a gun rights constitutional amendment and a bill altering Iowa’s law on using reasonable force in self-defense. For what I can tell, Democrats were incensed by Republicans’ failure to inform them of said pending throat-shoving in a polite and timely manner. It was an unspeakable tyranny of the blue daily debate calendar. And it shall not be allowed to stand. So Dems walked.

Seven hours later they returned. And, you guessed it, the bills passed easy peasy.

What was gained? Not much. People did actually listen to House Democrats for a day. But instead of a shrewd tactic, this looked more like a tantrum. I also think House Ds wasted a perfectly good walkout on two measures that are as good as dead in the Senate. Might have been smart to save that silver bullet for a real four-alarm legislative emergency.

I love when the word “unprecedented” gets thrown around these affairs, because it makes me laugh. Just four years ago. Democrats popped a dramatic rewrite of Iowa’s collective bargaining laws out of committee, past the House and through the Senate in the legislative equivalent of a quick wink. Even Gov. Chet Culver asked for a pause to catch a breath. He was ignored. Then he vetoed the bill.

Basically, majorities do what they want, and don’t do what they don’t want. I guess if they now send House Democrats an engraved invite to the slaughter, that’s what passes for progress.

But what’s up with this constitutional amendment?

This is a Republican Party that supposedly owns and operates a direct hotline to the wisdom and insights of the Founders. This is a party with many members who argue that the Constitution was transcribed from scriptures by earthly deities in powdered wigs. They, and only they, understand its correct interpretation, which is strict and literal to the last feathered penstroke.

So, naturally, you’d think the solution to the vexing problem of Iowa’s Constitution not containing a federal-style Second Amendment right to bear arms (if that is a problem after 164 years) would be to simply cut and paste the wise Founders’ version into our humble document.

Nah. The silly founders didn’t go far enough. They watered the tree of liberty with weak tea. Their amendment is a musket. What we need is one of those 16-inchers on the USS Iowa.

Instead of:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

What we really need is:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms, as herein expressed, shall not be infringed. The right of an individual to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms to defend life and liberty and for all other legitimate purposes is fundamental and shall not be infringed upon or denied. Mandatory licensing, registration, or special taxation as a condition of the exercise of this right is prohibited, and any other restriction shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

… Nor shall the state infringe on any Iowan’s right to do fancy trick shooting with mirrors, coins, beverage containers, etc., to spin a pistol, jauntily, before securing it in an appropriate holster or to take your guns to town, or, in keeping with the advice of a legal parent or guardian, leave your guns at home …

OK, I’ll stop.

Still, not much left to a democratic republic’s imagination in that amendment. I strongly favor gun rights, but it’s tough to imagine how even the most basic, common sensical safety regulations clear that dragnet. An amendment copying the U.S. Constitution would be a better option, and would pass with broad bipartisan support.

But, really, this isn’t about passing anything. It’s designed to raise money and stoke political fires. It’s also designed to make its lefty critics flip out. Mission accomplished. (See walkout above)

Basically, there just isn’t much of a real gun debate in Iowa right now. It’s also not a front-burner issue nationally.

The last big gun bill to pass the Iowa Legislature made it possible for many more Iowans to get concealed carry permits. (Passed by a Democratic Legislature, no less) And, so far, the ”wild west” warnings about that measure have yet to materialize. I have yet to see, for instance, one decent gunfight at the local corral. I think Iowans are pretty comfortable with things as-is.

So, in the absence of a real debate, the NRA and other groups have to manufacture angst. Why, if Iowa’s constitution isn’t amended, pronto, judges will soon take your guns. Well, that is, if that Obama hasn’t already confiscated them. A generous donation would also help loads …

These organizations can’t make money and don’t have as much influence during a cease fire. So Wednesday’s drama was pure solid gold. A walkout worth a thousand contributions.

So I guess everyone got what they wanted. Democrats got some attention. Gun rights groups got a lucrative mock debate.

And we all got another day where the Legislature did very little to solve real problems.

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