Des Moines Register. March 25, 2021.

Editorial: Iowa Republican lawmakers make a stand for freedom — well, one freedom (to get and carry guns)

No legislative session would be complete without Republicans trying to make it easier for Iowans to buy and tote around guns.

This year is no exception. Under a bill passed by the Iowa Legislature and sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowans would be able to purchase and carry handguns without permits.

House File 756 seems less about creating sound policy and more about Republican lawmakers creating another opportunity to publicly profess their love of the Second Amendment.

The legislation is about “advancing Iowans’ freedom,” said House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley.

The legislation protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners, said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.

“These proposals recognize that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and that Iowans should not be required to get a permission slip and pay a fee in order to purchase a firearm and practice their fundamental Second Amendment rights,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison.

An unfettered ability to exercise your constitutional rights? The same group refuses to apply that philosophy to voting. Yet it doesn’t want the slightest inconvenience for those desiring to carry around deadly weapons.

To be clear, obtaining a permit to own and carry a firearm in this state is hardly difficult, which is why more than 400,000 Iowans have these permits. You can frequently apply online. In some counties, the entire process is done without ever showing up in person anywhere.

The “certification” course for a permit to carry a handgun is frequently a joke. You can pay $30 for an online course, take a nap, never fire a weapon, and voila, you’ve graduated.

Permits do, however, ensure background checks of applicants. Allowing people to buy handguns without obtaining a permit to carry or acquire would eliminate background checks for those purchasing from anyone other than federally licensed dealers.

Republicans’ answer to that is not compelling. The legislation would make it a Class D felony to sell, rent or loan a gun to a person that the seller “knows or reasonably should know” is prohibited from owning firearms. Yet anyone selling a gun could say they didn’t know the buyer was not supposed to have one. Why not make it a crime to sell a gun to a prohibited person, period?

The process of securing a permit helps applicants know whether or not they are eligible to own a handgun. Some people have no idea that an involuntary commitment for substance abuse or a domestic altercation can result in the loss of their right to own a firearm. They may think a felony conviction “fell off” their record when it didn’t.

Without going through the permit process, they may not find out about this barrier until they’re trying to buy a gun at a store or are stopped by law enforcement — and perhaps cited for illegally possessing one.

Permits allow holders to carry their guns in many states and buy from federally licensed retailers without undergoing a background check before each purchase.

The Iowa Senate passed the bill on Monday, less than a week after a gunman killed eight people at spas in the Atlanta, Georgia, metro, and on the same day a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store. The two mass shootings touched off another spasm in America’s chronic gun rights versus gun control culture clash.

If Reynolds signs this bill into law, it will be easier for dangerous people to avoid background checks and obtain guns. Some landlords could not control their own property and prohibit gun possession by tenants. Average people will be more confused about proper protocols for gun ownership.

Iowa will not be a better place to live. It will not be safer for families. But GOP lawmakers can once again crow about their efforts to get more guns in the hands of more people. So they’ve got that going for them.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. March 26, 2021.

Editorial: A salute to heroes at Anamosa prison

For more than one year now, we have been talking about the superheroes who are our front-line workers.

We paid tribute to their sacrifice and showed our gratitude for their service. They faced the challenge of working where they were needed through a global pandemic. And then, just as we began to see hope for the weeks ahead, a tragic act of violence cuts down two of those heroes while they were doing their jobs.

A pall hangs over northeastern Iowa as we reckon with the deaths of two front-line workers — a nurse and a corrections officer — at the hands of prison inmates at Anamosa State Penitentiary.

The Iowa Department of Corrections reported that the attack occurred at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday when two inmates made an attempt to escape through the prison’s infirmary. Lorena Schulte, 50, a registered nurse, and correctional officer Robert McFarland, 46, were attacked with hammers and killed when they tried to stop the prisoners.

While prison violence is not uncommon, it’s been at least 45 years since an Iowa prison employee has been killed by an inmate. This tragedy reminds us that those who serve in correctional facilities put their lives on the line to protect citizens every day.

Our hearts go out to the loved ones of the heroes who perished in the line of duty at the Anamosa prison.

A solemn anniversary tolled this week as local health care providers reflected on one full year of facing COVID-19.

In that time, the staff at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital has nursed back to health 310 COVID-19 patients, while 52 have died.

MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center workers cared for and discharged 697 patients with COVID-19, while 73 such patients have died.

Two-hundred people in Dubuque County and more than 500 in the tri-state area have died from COVID-19. In addition, every aspect of our community has felt the impacts of this insidious virus.

A bright spot — we have helped each other through it. Think about the thousands who have suffered and survived. Consider that 80 nonprofit organizations received grants from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s disaster recovery fund, activated just over a year ago. In that time, the foundation has awarded close to $1.6 million of funds raised to help people impacted by the pandemic. No doubt that helped ease the collective burden.

As we remember all that we have lost this year, let us be proud of the work done in our communities to support and lift one another up.

Striking one of the most pleasant notes of the past seven days — a deep and resonant note at that — was news that the amazing Opus 97 is ready to be showcased at University of Dubuque’s Heritage Center.

If the idea of organ music conjures thoughts of the Wurlitzer you’ve heard at church, think bigger. Much, much bigger.

UD is now home to a custom-built Dobson Pipe Organ Builders opus organ, the largest of its kind in the state. The massive, 21-ton organ is made up of more than 3,000 pipes, some measuring more than 30 feet long.

UD professor of music and university organist Chuck Barland will debut the instrument for the public with an organ recital on Tuesday, April 6, as part of the university’s Live at Heritage Center Performing Arts Series. The livestream of the performance for the general public will initiate the first of many opportunities for the community to take in the size, power and sounds the instrument is capable of producing in John and Alice Butler Hall.

It’s fitting that the concert hall bears the name of the local philanthropists; it was the Butlers’ generosity and $2.7 million gift that made the organ a reality.

It’s exciting to see this unique musical specimen, the likes of which tend to be homed in British cathedrals, right here in Dubuque. A standing ovation to John and Alice Butler and the University of Dubuque for adding yet another attraction to the amazing tri-state area.


Fort Dodge Messenger. March 24, 2021.

Editorial: In Congress, Iowans show how things should get done. Ernst, Feenstra work in bipartisan way

Amid the endless and often meaningless bickering in Washington, a representative and a senator from Iowa have introduced measures that would actually do some good for the public.

In a move that shows bipartisanship is still possible, U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican who represents Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District, has teamed up with Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, of Wisconsin, to introduce a bill that would reduce loan costs for farmers.

It is called the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act. It would grant tax exempt status to income earned on agricultural real estate loans administered by banks. Without those taxes, banks would be more inclined to offer lower interest rates. Lower interest rates mean lower costs for farmers borrowing money.

On the other side of the Capitol rotunda, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, has teamed up with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, to introduce the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act. It would require the Office of Management and Budget to submit to Congress an annual report listing every government -funded project that is $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule. By itself, the bill will not stop government waste. But it would give Congress and the public a clear view of what is over budget and behind schedule, creating the opportunity to fix the problems.

That bill was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and is headed for the Senate floor.

Both measures demonstrate lawmaking the way it ought to be done. Legislators from both parties are setting aside their differences to come up with something for the common good.

We’re pleased that Iowans are leading the way, showing Washington how things should be done.