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Iowa, Oregon Diverge On Gun Policy 

In today's political landscape, this should surprise no one.  

Pundits left, right, and center often lament the increasing polarization of American society. While such complaints may sometimes be overblown, for the purpose of getting ‘clicks’ or viewers, it is objectively true that red states are getting redder, and blue states are getting bluer, as both ends of the political spectrum double down on the desires of their respective bases of support. State legislatures have taken divergent paths on a bevy of issues ranging from abortion to taxation, and gun rights are no exception. In the November 2022 Midterm election, Oregon and Iowa passed drastically different proposals relating to the right to keep and bear arms.

Iowans chose, by a whopping thirty-point margin, to amend the state constitution to include the right to keep and bear arms. The language of the amendment states: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” The Iowa Firearms Coalition President Dave Funk praised the approval of the ballot measure Tuesday evening, calling it a “historic day for freedom, civil rights, and the Hawkeye state.” Opponents of the new amendment fear the measure will make it more difficult to pass new gun control regulations and easier to strike down anti-Second Amendment laws. 

Oregonians, on the other hand, narrowly passed one of the strictest gun control measures in the country. Measure 114 will require Oregonians to obtain a permit to buy a gun after completing a firearms safety course, and would ban the sale or transfer of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The proposal, championed by anti-gun activist David Hogg, a survivor of the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting, and Ari Freilich, state director for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, will subject potential gun buyers to fees, firearms training at their own expense, fingerprinting, and criminal background checks. 

Proponents of the new Oregon law spent $2.4 million promoting the measure, including a $750,000 donation from Connie Ballmer, wife of Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft and current owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Opponents of the sweeping gun control proposal only raised $200,000 and were penalized for the late reporting of a $25,700 donation from the National Rifle Association. 

At least five Oregon county sheriffs are pledging to ignore the state’s new gun control law. Speaking to Fox News Digital, Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen said “The biggest thing is this does absolutely nothing to address the problem, the problem that we have is not… magazine capacity. It’s not background checks. It’s a problem with mental health awareness. It’s a problem with behavior health illness.” On the state’s new magazine capacity limit, Bowen said ‘there’s just no way possible for us to enforce that and nor would I simply because it’s an infringement on our Second Amendment, you know, our right to keep and bear arms.” 

Yours truly wrote about interstate immigration and the California exodus back in January; if this trend continues, it should not be surprising to see states take wildly different policy positions on all manner of issues in the coming years. Oregon and Iowa are both near-one party states, with Oregon Democrats holding every statewide office, both houses of the state legislature, and four of five congressional seats, and Republicans holding all but one statewide office in Iowa, and both houses of the legislature. But judging by the Midterm results—that saw Democrats sweep statewide positions in Arizona, and Republicans sweep the same seats in Florida, two formerly purple states—hard line policies on both sides of the aisle seem to be the order of the day.

Brady Leonard is a musician, political strategist, and podcaster based in Toledo, Ohio. The No Gimmicks Podcast airs Mondays and Wednesdays at 1pm EST, wherever podcasts are found.
Catalyst articles by Brady Leonard