Bill to remove handgun permit requirements passes Senate, headed to governor’s desk

By: - March 22, 2021 5:02 pm

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

Two controversial firearms bills are headed to the governor’s desk after a Senate debate on Monday.

The Senate passed bills to remove permit requirements for the purchase and carry of handguns and to limit the liability of firearm and ammunition manufacturers and sellers.

“This bill fundamentally changes the relationship between our state government and our citizens,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said of the bill to remove permit requirements.

Bill would remove permit requirements, require background checks at federally licensed dealers

The House passed House File 756 March 17. The bill would remove permit requirements to purchase or carry a handgun. Buyers who choose not to get a permit would need to undergo a federal background check every time they buy from a licensed dealer. 

“House File 756 recognizes the inherent right to keep and especially to bear arms as fundamental for the law-abiding,” Schultz said, “and it adds the ability to immediately undergo a background check in order to purchase a handgun if that need would suddenly arise in the life of an Iowan.”

Read more: How would House File 756 work?

House Democrats took issue with the changes in private sales under the bill. Under current law, buyers can show their permit as proof that they have passed a background check. House File 764 instead says a seller cannot transfer a handgun to someone if they know or “reasonably should know” that the individual cannot legally own that firearm. Proof of a background check would not be mandatory.

“I support responsible gun ownership. This bill is about guns for people who are not responsible,” Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said. “This bill allows bad guys to avoid background checks by the sheriff.”

Minority Leader Zach Wahls noted that the current background check and permit system was working. Nearly 15,000 illegal sales had been blocked in Iowa since 1998, he said.

“If the system in Iowa isn’t broken, what are we doing here?” Wahls, D-Coralville asked.

Schultz responded that the bill would still require background checks from federally licensed dealers. As for wrongful private sales, he argued, “bad guys” and “thieves” who knowingly sell handguns to people who should not have them would face a class “D” felony and be barred from legally purchasing weapons in the future.

Removing the permit system, Schultz said, would allow law-abiding citizens to more freely exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“Our system of permits is one of mistrust. That means you can exercise a fundamental right, but you must prove yourself not guilty in advance,” he said. “That is not how America is supposed to work.”

The Senate voted 31-17 to pass the bill.

Senate passes bill to limit gun industry liability

The Senate also passed House File 621, a bill that limits the liability of gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers. Under the bill, an individual could not sue a firearms manufacturer or dealer for the wrongful use of a firearm in a crime, or for the “lawful design, manufacture, marketing or sale” of a firearm or accessory. If an individual did bring a wrongful lawsuit, they would be responsible for the legal costs of the defendant.

Democrats brought concerns that the legislation could hinder legitimate cases over defective merchandise or improper warnings. 

“As long as the process of manufacture was legal, the liability is gone. That is a problem,” Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, said. “And that should be a problem that leaves every gun-owning Iowan quaking over the safety of their products.”

Schultz responded that the bill would still allow individuals to sue for negligence or faulty design and that similar language was already in place in 34 other states and federally. The bill mirrors the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. President Joe Biden has promised to prioritize repealing that law.

“We would not be here except for the recent change in administrations in Washington D.C.,” Schultz said.

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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.