Iowans would no longer need a permit to carry or buy guns under a GOP bill in the Legislature

Gun Rights

Stephen Gruber-Miller
 
| Des Moines Register

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Iowans wouldn’t need a permit to buy or carry firearms if a Republican-sponsored bill in the Iowa Legislature were to become law.

Supporters say it would remove the need for Iowans to get “a permission slip” to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, while opponents say it would threaten public safety and roll back some of Iowa’s background check requirements.

The bill, House Study Bill 254, advanced through a House subcommittee Monday with Reps. Steven Holt, R-Denison, and Jarad Klein, R-Keota, in support and Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, opposed. It is now eligible for consideration by the full House Public Safety Committee. A Senate subcommittee will consider similar legislation on Tuesday.

“Those who cannot legally possess a firearm, I will say again, will still not be able to legally possess a firearm under the provisions of this bill,” Holt said. ”And those practicing their Second Amendment rights will no longer have to get a permission slip to practice their basic fundamental rights.”

Wessel-Kroeschell said the proposal is one of several controversial bills under consideration by the Iowa Legislature that are hurting Iowa’s image and workforce recruitment efforts.

“Repealing Iowa’s bedrock public safety laws such as the background check law and the permitting requirement for carrying a concealed gun is extreme and it’s unpopular and a threat to public safety,” she said. “Iowans strongly support permit to carry and background checks for the purchase of a firearm.”

Iowans would still be able to obtain permits to carry or acquire firearms if the bill became law, but the process would become optional. Supporters of the legislation say many people would still apply for permits to be able to carry their weapons out of state.

How the gun bill would work

Under the bill, anyone buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer would still have to either pass a federal background check or present a permit to carry, which would show they have previously passed a background check.

Gun sales between private citizens would no longer require Iowans to first obtain a permit to acquire firearms. It would become a class D felony to sell, rent or loan a gun to a person that the seller “knows or reasonably should know” is prohibited from owning firearms. That crime would be punishable by up to five years in prison.

Removing the permit to acquire requirement, opponents argue, would essentially eliminate background checks for buying handguns anywhere other than from a federally licensed dealer. That’s because under current law, someone who buys a gun in a person-to-person sale, for instance, needs to undergo a background check in order to obtain their permit to acquire.

“Yes, the federal law would still be there and would require background checks when people walk into gun stores, but there’s a significant portion of the market that consists of people buying handguns from people who aren’t dealers,” said Luke Entelis, counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun violence prevention organization.

Holt disputed the idea that the bill would eliminate background checks. He said that by increasing the penalty for selling a firearm to someone who isn’t legally allowed to possess one, the legislation could lead more people to go through federally licensed dealers.

“You better know this person really, really, really well in order to sell them a firearm,” he said. “Because if you don’t know them that well and you’re selling someone a firearm and they legally can’t possess one, then you’ve committed a class D felony.”

Erica Fletcher, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, said she’s concerned the bill would make Iowa less safe.

“I’m just worried that we’re going to eliminate this permit requirement and the bill is going to lower the bar for who may legally carry concealed guns in public,” she said.

Richard Rogers, a lobbyist for the Iowa Firearms Coalition, which supports the legislation, said removing the permit requirement will help people who need a gun for self-defense.

“The principal benefit of this change, removing the requirement for a permit to carry, will fall to those who suddenly find themselves seriously threatened and need and want a gun now,” he said. “A young mother in an abusive relationship or a shop owner being stalked by an angry former, ex-employee, for instance.”

Scott Jones, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, which supports the bill, said 18 states currently allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit, as Iowa’s legislation would do.

“As we see it, Iowa’s current system is set up as a privilege, not a right,” he said.

Leslie Carpenter, a lobbyist with Iowa Mental Health Advocacy, said permits and background checks help keep guns out of the hands of people like convicted felons, domestic abusers and those who are a danger to themselves or others.

“Iowa’s current background checks and permits do reduce gun violence and they reduce the public’s fear of guns being in the hands of those who we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” she said.

Iowa lawmakers have considered permitless carry legislation in previous years, but the proposals have not advanced.

This year, Iowa Republicans also passed a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution to protect the right “to keep and bear arms,” paving the way for the proposal to appear on Iowans’ ballots in 2022.

Lawmakers are also considering proposals to limit the type of lawsuits that can be filed against gun and ammunition manufacturers and to expunge some nonviolent felony convictions from Iowans’ records after 10 years, which would restore their right to own firearms.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at sgrubermil@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

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