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The Elbert Files: 13 dangerous words


“What are they smoking?”

It was one day before Iowa State played Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and the question pulled me back from an insane fantasy in which I was figuring out how the Cyclones could win it all.

I figured if ISU’s men’s basketball team could pull off solid wins over Ohio State and Houston, they might be able to squeak past Kentucky and maybe beat North Carolina in overtime. Then, if Tennessee and Virginia beat up each other, Iowa State might be able to take the winner of that game and get a shot at Gonzaga for the title.

I was jarred back to reality by the sudden appearance of my friend K.C. walking toward Polk Boulevard.

“What is who smoking?” I asked.

“Lawmakers,” he replied.

“I’m not sure,” I said, “but if they legalized it, Iowa might not have to face another year of tight budgets.

“Did you see the Forbes article about how much money states like Colorado and Washington are pulling in by taxing marijuana?” I added.

“It’s a lot,” K.C. agreed, “two or three hundred million dollars.

“Iowa lawmakers can’t find enough money to give teachers a decent raise or to fix our busted highways,” he continued.

“But they’re really good at picking judges and keeping students from voting,” I inserted.

“Yes. But now they’ve done something that makes absolutely no sense,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“It’s this Second Amendment thing,” K.C. said. “The amendment they want to add to Iowa’s constitution to expand gun rights.

“At a time when every civilized place in the world is trying to tone down gun violence, Iowa wants to go the other way,” he said.

“It’s not like we aren’t covered by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” I said.

“What’s really bizarre,” K.C. continued, “is the total hypocrisy of it all.”

“Republicans want to add 13 words that are not part of the U.S. Constitution,” he said, pulling a piece of paper from a pocket and reading: “ ‘Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.’

“Then they act like that’s no big deal. Like it won’t change anything.

“This after Democrats agreed to wording that was exactly the same as the U.S. Second Amendment. But Republicans rejected that. They insisted on the ‘strict scrutiny’ wording.

“I’m no expert,” K.C. continued, “but the way I see ‘strict scrutiny’ is that it means pretty much anything goes.

“People would be able to carry weapons in schools and courthouses and churches. How safe is that?

“ ‘Strict scrutiny’ would also presumably make it OK for felons, terrorists and domestic abusers to have guns. And it would pretty much end efforts to outlaw high-capacity weapons, like the AR-15. Nor could you get rid of bump stocks, like that guy used in Las Vegas when he fired more than 1,000 rounds into an outdoor concert, killing 58 people.

“Those 13 words Republicans want to add to the Iowa Constitution may be the biggest mistake they’ll ever make.

“They’ve already approved it in the Legislature, twice,” K.C. emphasized.

“If it wasn’t for Secretary of State Paul Pate failing to publicize it last year, it would be on the ballot next year,” he said, noting that constitutional amendments must pass two separately elected sessions of the General Assembly.

“Well,” I said, “we can hope people come to their senses before 2022.”

“Don’t count on it,” K.C. said as he headed east on Grand Avenue. “The Iowa House just passed a law that allows kids to hunt with handguns.” 


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