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Rural Caucus chair: State should ban, confiscate semi-automatic guns


State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, D-Manilla, says Iowa lawmakers should ban semi-automatic guns and “start taking them” from owners who refuse to surrender any illegal firearms through a buy-back program.

In an interview, a fiery Muhlbauer, the chairman of the Iowa House Democratic Rural Caucus with a reputation for often voting with Republicans, said it is time to act with “radical changes” on gun laws and other issues to protect schoolchildren from shooting sprees like the one in Newtown, Conn.

“We cannot have big guns out here as far as the big guns that are out here, the semi-automatics and all of them,” Muhlbauer said. “Those are not hunting weapons.

He added, “We should ban those in Iowa.”

Muhlbauer, who did not list the specific weapons he wants outlawed in the interview, said he would like to see the ban implemented in a retroactive fashion.

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“Even if you have them, I think we need to start taking them,” Muhlbauer said. “Because if they’re out there, they’re just going to get circulated around to the wrong people. Those guns should not be in the public’s hands. There are just too many guns.”

If such a ban were implemented, Muhlbauer suggested a voluntary buy-back plan. But he would go further if needed.

“If we find them on the street, there’s going to have to be some sort of penalty for them,” Muhlbauer said.

Templeton Mayor Ken Behrens, a Republican, said Muhlbauer’s proposal smacks of an overreach that is out of touch with much of rural Iowa.                

“I would hate to see a law where it would be mandated that somebody start taking guns,” Behrens said. “I don’t think that would go over well.”                

Muhlbauer said the state also should eye more careful screening of who enters schools, government buildings and other facilities. He also suggested consideration of steel doors to prevent entry to classrooms by gunmen. Metal detectors or armed guards at schools may be legitimate options as well, he said.                

“We have not done enough in the past, and this is running away from us,” Muhlbauer said. “We can’t have this anymore.”                

Muhlbauer, a cattleman and farmer, owns three guns — a .410 shotgun, a .22 rifle and a .22 pistol.                

He does some pheasant hunting and skeet shooting with the guns.            

Muhlbauer said flatly that he’s not frightened politically by the National Rifle Association or the Iowa Gun Owners.              

“As you know, the last couple of years I’ve been fighting against them,” Muhlbauer said. “I have told them time and time again, ‘You guys are wanting the gun laws so loose that that pendulum is going to swing back and it’s going to bite you.’ And that’s just what we don’t want to see happen now. We want to put in stricter rules with common sense. I don’t want to have the gun laws slung back so far that we start taking guns away and start limiting them to where people cannot enjoy guns, those that want to have it. And that’s what I’m afraid, if we keep having these incidents happen, is what’s going to happen.”                

Muhlbauer said promoting tough gun laws and protecting children in schools are important enough to lose an election advocating.                

“We’re talking people’s lives,” Muhlbauer said. “You want to start losing children’s lives and adult lives over a gun issue because the NRA thinks we’re stepping on somebody’s toes?”              

He said the response to the school shootings has to amount to more than legislative tinkering.                

“With all these shootings going, we have to start making radical changes and radical choices from what we’ve done in the past,” Muhlbauer said.              

In coming months, Muhlbauer said, he will work to unite rural and urban legislators on efforts to prevent school shooting sprees and other violence.               

Mental health must be up to date and not full of loopholes, he said. Muhlbauer also identified violent video games as a concern.               

“We’ve got these video games out here for these little kids,” he said. “Maybe it’s time we start pulling them away. They’re playing some really nasty games on there that are shoot-’em-up. Evidently our culture is pointing toward this.”               

DougBurnsMuhlbauer said he doesn’t know how the Legislature would go about prohibiting children from playing video games he finds objectionable.                

“As parents, they’re going to have to start watching what their kids are doing more closely,” he said. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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