Iowa City City Council lifts gun ban for public buildings, buses

In a 5-2 vote, the Iowa City City Council approved the rescission of a 2011 resolution which prohibited firearms in public buildings and buses.


Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

A community member addresses the council about a zoning proposition regarding a proposed animal recreation center at an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

Rachel Schilke and Riley Davis

The Iowa City City Council approved 5-2 to rescind a resolution that prohibited weapons inside public buildings and transportation in order to comply with Iowa law, despite citing danger to the community and concern over open carry.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 2502, an amendment that prohibits cities, counties, and townships from banning weapons from public buildings and transportation on June 25. City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said that if Iowa City did not comply with the amendment, the city could be liable for damages, costs, and attorney fees if lawsuits against it were successful.

Weapons will be allowed in all city buildings and transportation for the first time in nine years since the city council initially approved a resolution banning them in February 2011. Many city councilors said in a meeting Tuesday night they were disappointed that the state legislature passed this new law and forced the city to approve.

Iowa City resident Temple Hiatt, a military veteran who served in the Gulf War, said the council should not automatically approve the resolution in fear of fees and potential lawsuits. She suggested seeking out partnerships with other cities to file a lawsuit against the state to prohibit this resolution from taking effect.

Hiatt added that allowing more guns in public spaces would not make the community safe, and said that a child could easily find a weapon in an unattended backpack or purse at the public library.

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City councilors expressed concern about people being able to carry weapons into public spaces, however said they felt pressure to support the change due to the possibility of litigation and attorney fees.

City Councilor Janice Weiner said the law allows for open carry and for community members to make a statement exercising their rights in a negative manner.

“This is a horrible law,” Weiner said. “This is a way for someone to blatantly [say] ‘this is my right now and this is what I am going to do,’ and essentially bringing a weapon into a city council meeting just to show us they have that right. I personally do not believe that is what the second amendment is about.”

City Councilor Laura Bergus said, though the council could not legally restrict firearms in buildings, the city should strongly discourage weapons in buildings and let the community know that they are not welcome.

“We may have to take down the signs that tell people they can’t have firearms on the bus,” Bergus said, “…but as Temple let us know and reinforced what a lot of us know, the majority of Iowans are for gun safety, and that means reasonable regulation. I don’t think firearms are welcome in the places they were prohibited up until July 1.”