Yesterday, we discussed a package that Minnesota gun rights activists have been receiving from a group calling itself “Minnesota Gun Rights”.
I ran a bit of video from Representative Matt Windschitl, running down a group called the “Iowa Gun Owners”.
It was a pretty acerbic video. And it opened up some questions; what was the argument about? Who did what to whom?
And who are “Iowa Gun Owners”?
Blown Up: I called Representative Windschitl yesterday. We talked for about a half hour. The keystone of the conversation was an incident in the Iowa legislature in 2011. As Windschitl relates, the GOP caucus was pushing a bill in both chambers to allow combat veterans who’d suffered from PTSD, and had that notification put into the national NICS databases (disqualifying them from gun purchases) an avenue to get their rights restored.
There had been, earlier in the session, a debate about introducing “Alaska Carry” – legalizing carry without a permit, as in Alaska, Vermont and Arizona – and/or “Constitutional Carry” (making carry laws a part of the Constitution) in Iowa. The bill had died…
…but the measure to restore veterans’ rights was alive and well, and had passed the Senate. All it needed was to pass the House.
Said Windschitl, “we took months to get everyone in on it. The NRA, Aaron Dorr (leader of Iowa Gun Owners) – we were going to write some bridge language [to make the bill mesh with the Senate version for easy passage].
Then, says Windschitl, “an hour before the final debate on the bill [to restore veterans' rights], a [junior GOP rep and IGO supporter] intorduced a “kill all” amendment reintroducing “Constitutional Carry”.
The Speaker and the legislator spent hours on procedural maneuvering – attempts to suspend the rules and other parliamentary shenanigans, all of which failed.
As did the prospects for either restoring veterans’ rights and “Constitutional Carry”, in that session.
“It killed the bill”, said Windschitl.
Came On Strong: Windschitl – who describes himself as a strong Second Amendment legislator, and his record supports the claim – recalls first hearing about Iowa Gun Owners.
“When I saw my first letter, I thought “all right”. At that time, the NRA had been pretty much absent from Iowa”. Windschitl noted that IGO’s tough rhetoric was attractive to legislators who wanted to mobilize some serious muscle to fight for gun rights in Iowa - a state that was very late to the table in liberalizing gun laws.
But the honeymoon was short-lived, said Windschitl; “I saw all kinds of representatives get taken in – and get burned”.
The problem – one of the problems, anyway – was all that tough rhetoric meant exactly that; if they didn’t get everything they wanted, they wanted nothing. If you supported them 99%, it was the same as opposing them.
Windschitl isn’t the only one to notice this. The left-leaning “Bleeding Heartland” blog, in a piece written by “DesmoinesDem”, notes (with emphasis added by me):
Founded in 2009, Iowa Gun Owners is quick to bash Republicans and other groups it considers unprincipled. Its leaders have even labeled GOP State Representative Clel Baudler, a member of the National Rifle Association’s board, as “notoriously anti-gun.” How far out there do you have to be to consider the NRA anti-gun? Iowa Gun Owners refuses to get involved in supporting gun legislation that supposedly doesn’t go far enough in protecting the Second Amendment.
Windschitl – with a long record as a Second Amendment torch-carrier – notes that Iowa Gun Owners have attacked him. “It’s like any hint of compromise means you’re out of the club!”.
And Nothing At All: Of course, IGO isn’t the only group in politics that considers any effort focused less than 100% on principle as no effort at all. It’s satisfying rhetoric, of course – but it also means that any time you don’t have absolute control of the legislature, you get nothing you want passed into law to form actual policy.
Like losing the restoration of Second Amendment rights for veterans, over a doomed attempt to get a “Constitutional Carry” provision that was not going to pass under any circumstances.
There are times, especially in politics, where perfect truly is the enemy of good enough.
But for that to be an issue, you have to actually be trying for either.
With that in mind, let’s go back to the video of Representative Windschitl from yesterday:
Here’s the transcript of the video:
“This morning I saw an email from a so-called Second Amendment organization. That organization, in a roundabout way, was trying to take credit for helping to get this [pro Second Amendment] bill to the floor and working it through the process. It’s not the first time this organization has done that. I want to be clear to Iowans – I want to be clear to anyone that’s watching this video right now; that organization’s executive director is Aaron Dorr; he’s the executive director of Iowa Gun Owners. Here’s the message; he did not lift a single finger to move this [pro second amendment] legislation forward. In fact, he never even chose to register on the original house file, House File 81. And he did not choose to register on this [pro second amendment] legislation before us now. The organizations that have brought this legislation to us today, to protect Iowans, are the National Rifle Association, the Iowa Firearms Coalition, the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, and the Iowa Police Association. Those are the organizations that have spent time and effort to make sure we’re doing right by Iowans. So for those Iowans out there who have been getting these deceptive, misleading emails, rest assured – we are doing your business in an up front, honest manner…
What happened there?
Windschitl told me the clip was “about a bill that would have made carry permit data private information, to prevent newspapers from publishing the names of people with permits”.
“There was no contact from Iowa Gun Owners on the bill. No support at all”. The newspapers – especially the Des Moines Register – were pushing to stop the bill; newspapers love harassing the law-abiding gun owner. Still, as the vote drew near, things were looking good. The GOP caucus and the various other Second Amendment groups had the votes. The bill was going to pass.
The night before the final vote on the bill, Windschitl was directed to a posting on the IGO Facebook page; “The Iowa Gun Owners took credit for the bill!”
The next morning, the Speaker of the House – Kraig Paulsen, another Second Amendment stalwart – told Windschitl “you have the bully pulpit”, in Windschitl’s words.
The results? Well, you’ve seen the video.
Asked who were his points of contact from the Iowa Gun Owners, Windschitl responded “I worked with Aaron and Chris Dorr”.
Aaron Dorr, of course, is the president of Iowa Gun Owners.
Chris is Aaron’s brother. And he’s the one whose signature is on the letter we talked about yesterday, sent to Minnesota gun owners on behalf of “Minnesota Gun Rights”.
More about the Dorrs – and their two organizations – tomorrow.