News & Politics

Meet America's Youngest Gun Lobbyists

Meet Natalie, age 10, and Meredith, age 12.  Natalie and Meredith Gibson are USPSA and 3-gun competitive shooters.

Their father, Nathan Gibson, taught them to shoot when they were 5 years old. Three years ago, while they were practicing at a gun range in their home state of Iowa, a range officer approached Nathan and asked how old the girls were. When he responded, the officer told him the girls were too young to shoot and would have to stop.

Unbeknownst to most residents of Iowa, there is an antiquated law from the 1880s that prohibits children under the age of 14 from firing a pistol, with or without appropriate supervision. The children are legally allowed to shoot a shotgun or a rifle (including the dreaded AR15) with supervision, but they cannot shoot a pistol.

Currently, the girls shoot in Missouri, where they can practice for their competitions — three hours from their home in central Iowa. Iowa is the only state in the country with this kind of law, says the Iowa Firearms Coalition, an NRA affiliate.

The Gibson family decided to fight the law and father Nathan took himself and the girls to the capitol to make some changes. The Iowa House is controlled by Republicans, but the Iowa State Senate is split almost down the middle at 26 to 24 with a two-Democrat majority.

According to the Iowa Firearms Coalition, the girls have the votes in the Democrat Senate to repeal the 1880s law and replace it with one that permits children to shoot all legal firearms with adult supervision.

But the bill can’t get to the Senate floor for a vote.

The Democrat Senate leadership controls the legislative calendar. Sen. Steve Sodders (D) is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and, according to the Iowa Firearms Coalition, is keeping the bill from a floor vote.

The IFC says Sodders will create a subcommittee filled with anti-gun senators and then assign the bill to that committee for review. The bill dies every year in the committee.

By the way, Democrat Sodders is up for reelection this year and will face a Republican opponent, Jeff Edler.

The girls have been at the state capitol every Wednesday afternoon for three years working with Barry Snell, a registered lobbyist and president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition.  Natalie and Meredith have plead their case to all 50 senators, including the anti-gun legislators.

Meredith and Natalie told me about one of their recent experiences trying to speak with the Iowa senators. During the current legislative session, Senator Majority leader Mike Gronstal (D) tried to evade the girls when they were visiting, but the girls outsmarted him. The girls blocked exits, flanked him and forced him to listen to what they had to say.

Natalie says the senator was nice to them but tried to change the subject when they spoke on their issue. Gronstal told them a joke and tried to distract them. It didn’t work; the girls are still on a mission.

The 2016 legislative session is over and the 2017 session will begin in January. The bill will be reintroduced — “it will be reintroduced until it passes,” says Snell.