The following is a letter to Iowa state senators from Bishop Alan Scarfe, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa and Bishop Julius C. Trimble, Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

14 March, 2015

Dear Senators,

We are writing to express concern about elements of the proposed bill SF 425 which is currently before the Iowa State legislature. A similar bill, HF 527 has already been passed by the State House of Representatives in such a speedy manner that I have to wonder whether its implications have been seriously thought through. The State Senate has an opportunity to slow this process down and give the bill a more careful consideration in all of its parts.

Current law prohibits children under 14 from possessing a handgun. This restriction will be removed by the proposed legislation, thus allowing children of any age for such possession. The proviso is that their possession would be supervised by an adult. I appreciate the care with which Iowans look after their children, but not in every case. Just one case of a five year old accidently killing a play mate or even themselves by accident is one too many. Too much is presumed upon the caregiver, and the removal of such a restriction is tantamount to child endangerment at the least.

Secondly, it is proposed that the 3 day waiting period – a “cooling off period” in essence for people to think through their actions if tempted to buy a gun out of depression, or anger, or a rush of the moment reactivity – be eliminated. The possibilities of lifting such a waiting period are significant considering the potential for increased deaths by suicide or the homicidal deaths of domestic violence victims. And thirdly, it is proposed to legalize suppressors or silencers, which is currently prohibited by law. This would make urban gunfire detection technology mute.

The new legislation is presented as cleaning up gun laws, and yet it does so at the expense of gun safety. Safe and sensible gun laws are the desired outcome of most citizens without any impact upon the rights of the Second Amendment. This is not a constitutional issue but a societal, including the safety of the most vulnerable among us – children and those living in high gun crime areas.

As Bishops of faith communities in Iowa, we are committed to safe and sensible gun laws to reduce gun violence, place less gun accessibility into the hands of criminals, and make our society a safer place. We urge the Senators to think with fresh minds on the legislation before them and its implications, especially those elements which we have highlighted; and suitably to amend or repel bill SF 425.

More than thirty thousand citizens are killed each year by guns, many of which are suicides and accidental deaths. This is the highest rate of gun deaths in the industrialized world. Gun safety requires the kind of careful reflection that we invite you to engage in. It can be achieved and reduce criminal violence as well as inappropriate gun use and its unforeseen consequences ; but these proposed laws are a step in the wrong direction.
Yours sincerely for a safer world,

Bishop Alan Scarfe, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa
Bishop Julius C. Trimble , Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

Bishop Alan Scarfe