Bill would remove mandate for permits to acquire, carry firearms

By: - March 1, 2021 7:58 pm

Gun in a man’s holster. (Photo by James Carroll/Getty Images Plus)

Republican lawmakers advanced a bill Monday that would allow Iowans to purchase and carry firearms without a permit.

Under current law, Iowans must obtain a permit to acquire a pistol or revolver, and then apply for a second permit to carry that weapon in public. House Study Bill 254 proposes that Iowans could purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer with a federal background check or a permit. Then, individuals would not need to present a permit to carry that weapon in public. 

Advocates for the bill, including Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said the change would align Iowa with several other states that already allow citizens to carry weapons without a permit.

“This is not some revolutionary thing here,” he said. “Eighteen states already have constitutional carry, or what some would call permitless carry.”

The bill would not change which groups are prohibited from obtaining a firearm. However, the removal of mandatory permits would affect other parts of Iowa’s current gun control legislation, including the transfer of firearms between people who are not licensed dealers.

Currently, an individual cannot transfer ownership of a firearm to someone who doesn’t have a permit to acquire a pistol or revolver. That permit certifies that the buyer had previously passed a background check.

But because permits to acquire would no longer be mandatory, House Study Bill 254 would instead prohibit the transfer of a gun if the original owner of the firearm “knows or reasonably should know that the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm.” The same metric would be used for loaning or renting a firearm. Violators would be subject to a class “D” felony.

Outside of permit changes, the bill would also:

  • Allow some emergency medical responders to carry weapons;
  • Prohibit cities and municipalities from regulating the carry of weapons;
  • Prohibit landlords who receive federal rental assistance money from forbidding their tenants to have firearms;
  • Define the possession or storage of a firearm as an invalid reason to claim a tenant has created a “clear and present danger.”

Opponents of the bill said it would “unravel” Iowa’s gun safety laws and go against the will of Iowans.

“We know Iowans support background checks as well as permits to acquire a weapon or a permit to carry a weapon,” said Charlotte Eby, lobbyist for gun control group Giffords.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, voted against the proposal in the Monday subcommittee. She said she supported some parts of the bill, like its proposal to allow emergency medical professionals to carry weapons, but that the bill in total was not acceptable.

“No constitutional right is unlimited and firearm enthusiasts should not expect their Second Amendment rights to be unlimited,” she said.

Holt responded that the bill would not expand access to firearms for prohibited groups or end background checks. He emphasized that everyone purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer would still need a federal background check under the proposal.

“With this in place, everyone, whether they’re getting a long gun or a handgun, is going to go through that federal, FBI background check,” he said. 

The full House Public Safety committee is scheduled consider House Study Bill 254 on Tuesday. A Senate subcommittee is also scheduled  discuss its companion bill, Senate Study Bill 1232.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.