Accused domestic abuser says he now has a gun permit

A man draws his Glock .45-caliber pistol. (Photo by Getty Images)

An eastern Iowa man whose domestic-violence conviction led to his being denied a gun permit says he has now legally obtained that permit.

The dispute over whether 51-year-old Todd Michael Hansel of Dubuque is entitled to a gun permit has coincided with passage of a new state law eliminating, effective July 1, the legal requirement that Iowans apply for and be granted a permit to carry a handgun.

But while opponents say the new law might make it easier for domestic abusers in Iowa to acquire a gun, it doesn’t alter the federal law prohibiting them from doing so.

State records indicate that last August, Hansel applied to the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office for a permit to carry a handgun. According to newly disclosed records, Hansel was arrested in August 2009 for domestic abuse assault for allegedly grabbing his wife during an argument and pushing her to the floor. He later pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct.

Dubuque County Attorney Joshua Sims advised the sheriff to deny the permit since the underlying facts surrounding the disorderly conduct conviction were tied to domestic violence. Under federal law, it is unlawful for any person convicted of domestic violence to possess a firearm.

Hansel appealed the sheriff’s decision and, according to state records, he testified at a subsequent hearing on the matter before Administrative Law Judge Tricia A. Johnston. According to the judge’s ruling, Hansel admitted that on the night of the alleged assault, he had had shot a cell-phone video of his wife to “show the world” her true personality, prompting his wife to knock the phone from his hand, which led to him grabbing her by wrists to restrain her.

Johnston ruled against Hansel and upheld the denial of the permit. “Hansel’s own statement indicates he used force against his wife, grabbing and holding into her wrist, left marks on her wrist,” Johnson wrote in her ruling. “Mr. Hansel’s conviction for disorderly conduct meets the definition of a misdemeanor conviction crime of domestic violence … The charging documents indicate he committed this offense by throwing his wife on the floor and leaving red marks on her neck.”

Johnston’s decision led to Hansel filing a petition in civil court, with the Department of Inspections and Appeals named as the respondent, seeking judicial review of the matter.

Last month, after the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported on the case, Hansel’s attorney dismissed the case. Hansel told the Capital Dispatch he was never accused of domestic violence, and he suggested the sheriff had confused him with another man of the same name. He said he had recently obtained a gun permit, but he declined to elaborate.

Several years ago, the Iowa Legislature made gun permits — once treated as public information — confidential government records. As a result, the Capital Dispatch cannot confirm whether an Iowa sheriff has, in fact, issued Hansel a gun permit.

The new law approved by state legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds eliminates the permit requirements for the purchase and carrying of handguns, but it does not change the prohibition against gun possession by people who have domestic violence convictions.

From a practical standpoint, however, gun buyers in Iowa can now avoid the permitting process that, at least initially, denied Hansel a permit to legally own a gun. Prospective buyers still need to undergo a federal background check, but only if they attempt to purchase a gun through a licensed firearms dealer.

They can purchase a gun through an unlicensed dealer, and under the new Iowa law sellers would be guilty of a crime only of they knew or “reasonably should know” they were selling to someone who is ineligible to own a firearm.