Bill would allow loaded guns in parked cars at businesses, schools, prisons

By: - February 21, 2023 3:17 pm

A bill advancing in the Iowa House would allow firearm owners to leave loaded weapons in parked cars at businesses, prisons, schools and colleges, and other locations. (Photo illustration via Canva)

Firearm owners would be able to leave loaded weapons in parked cars at businesses, prisons, schools and colleges, and other locations under a bill advancing in the Iowa House.

Republicans on a Public Safety subcommittee gave preliminary approval Tuesday to House Study Bill 173, the first major firearms bill under consideration since Iowa voters passed a gun-rights amendment to the state constitution in the November elections.

The bill allows loaded firearms and ammunition to be stored, out of sight, in a locked vehicle in parking lots of businesses, schools and correctional facilities. Employers could still prohibit firearms in company-owned or school vehicles and they would be exempt from liability for the presence of a firearm on their property. Gun owners would also be allowed to carry loaded rifles and shotguns in their vehicles while driving on state highways.

Schools and casinos also would be allowed to authorize individuals to carry weapons on the premises or in school vehicles.

Business and school groups were among the opponents who spoke against the bill at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry, which represents some of the largest employers in the state, framed its opposition to the bill in terms of property rights.

“And we think this is an issue where we do go backwards on landowner rights and private property rights,” lobbyist Brad Hartkopf said.

He said businesses may experience a “tense and emotional situation” if a worker is fired. “Imagine what could happen in that situation, if somebody has access to a weapon in a vehicle immediately,” he said.

Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition acknowledged employers have property rights, but argued the legislation was protecting gun owners’ right to privacy in their personal vehicles.

“So we think the place to draw the line between those competing interests is the locked door of a private vehicle, even if it’s on the employer’s lot. Some people do not have a choice of places where to park. It’s not as if there’s a time bomb in this vehicle,” he said.

Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, opposed the bill.  “I understand the intent of the bill. But this, just like every gun bill that we do, is a slippery slope into allowing people to carry wherever and whenever they want,” he said.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the chair of the subcommittee, said he understands the property rights concern for employers. “Respectfully, though, however, we’re talking about a law-abiding citizen who wants to have a firearm locked in their vehicle for their protection,” he said.

The bill advances to the House Public Safety Committee. Holt said sections of the bill that would be removed deal with carrying weapons at the Iowa State Fairgrounds and suspension or reinstatement of weapons permits after an arrest.

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Kathie Obradovich
Kathie Obradovich

Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine.