Kim Reynolds noncommittal on red flag law in Iowa; new US gun safety law offers funds for enacting one

Ian Richardson
Des Moines Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds declined Tuesday to say whether she would get behind a so-called red flag law in Iowa in light of a new bipartisan federal gun safety law that offers funding to states that enact them. 

Reynolds, a Republican, said she wouldn't rule it out and plans to "take a look at everything." But she also said she believes red flag laws have not stopped some shootings in other states and that Iowa needs to have a "balance" that recognizes the rights of gun owners as it moves forward. 

"When we focus on one solution to the issues that we see with active shooters, we tend to, I think, not think about what other solutions are," she said. "And we eliminate potential things that we can do right away."

Extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, allow police or family members to get a court order that temporarily confiscates firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. 

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have red flag laws in place. Many of those states are clustered in regions of the U.S. largely governed by Democrats, but some states run by Republicans, such as Florida and Indiana, also have them. 

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Such laws have gained some bipartisan support, including among U.S. lawmakers. Twenty-nine Republicans joined Democrats to pass the federal gun safety law in late June. 

The new legislation includes billions of dollars in funding for state mental health services and school security. It also closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by barring anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense who has a "current or recent former dating relationship with the victim" from buying guns for five years. And it provides grants to states to adopt red flag laws.

Republicans split in how they view red flag laws 

The division among Republicans on the issue is evident in Iowa, where the state's two U.S. senators disagreed in their final votes on the bill. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst was one of 15 Republican senators to vote in favor of the measure, joining all 50 Democrats. Ernst said the law "does not take away the rights of any law-abiding American" but could help keep schools safe while providing more access to mental health treatment. 

But U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley voted against it, saying he agreed with much of the legislation but had "very specific concerns about safeguarding constitutional due process rights." 

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In the House, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, voted for the bill, while all three of Iowa's Republican House members voted against it. 

Reynolds said Tuesday that passing such legislation wouldn't be a perfect solution, pointing to how the July 4 shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that killed seven people came despite the state's red flag law

"Illinois has some of the strongest gun restriction laws in the country. A red flag law. And still, we had an individual who was determined to do evil, made it through the system, and killed people," Reynolds said. 

Illinois' red flag law was passed in 2019 but has been seldom used. The Highland Park shooter was able to legally amass at least five guns despite showing multiple warning signs before the attack. Gun violence prevention advocates have pointed at the situation as showing the need for more training and awareness around such laws. 

Reynolds' comments on red flag laws were similar to those she has made in the past. In 2019, in the aftermath of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California, that at the time renewed a push for gun-related legislation, Reynolds said she would take a look at such a law but had concerns about due process

Reynolds has repeatedly said this year that there's not a single answer to gun violence and focused her comments primarily on mental health resources, law enforcement training and school security measures. In mid-June, Reynolds announced she would spend $100 million in federal funding to help prevent school shootings in the state. 

Those funds will be used to conduct vulnerability assessments on schools, provide active shooter training, hire additional staff at the Department of Public Safety and create new pathways to report and monitor threats of violence. Schools, both public and private, will also be eligible for up to $50,000 each to improve the security of their buildings. 

The funding will come from the American Rescue Plan and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, federal COVID-19 relief packages passed by Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. 

Democrat Deidre DeJear, who is challenging Reynolds in this year's governor's race, has said she will advocate for what she calls "common sense" gun laws, including requiring people to have a permit to purchase a gun and raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21. 

USA Today contributed to this report. 

Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at, at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.