DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed legislation to eliminate a requirement that Iowans obtain a permit to acquire or carry handguns and loosen other state restrictions.
House File 756 “protects the Second Amendment rights of Iowa’s law-abiding citizens while still preventing the sale of firearms to criminals and other dangerous individuals,” the governor said in a statement Friday afternoon.
The law also takes “greater steps to inform law enforcement about an individual’s mental illness helping ensure firearms don't end up in the wrong hands,” she said.
“We will never be able to outlaw or prevent every single bad actor from getting a gun, but what we can do is ensure law-abiding citizens have full access to their constitutional rights while keeping Iowans safe,” the Osceola Republican said.
HF 756 enacts permit-less “constitutional carry” provisions similar to those in 18 other states that gun rights advocates say will enhance individual rights while removing what sponsor Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, called a requirement that they get a “permission slip from the government” to exercise their Second Amendment rights to buy and carry a firearm.
Signing the bill into law will end a system that allows Iowans to exercise that right, but requires “you must prove yourself not guilty in advance,” according to Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.
HF 756 ends Iowa’s current system that requires that to acquire and carry a handgun, an Iowan needs to get a permit from a county sheriff who runs a required federal background check on the individual before issuing a five-year permit. After that, the individual who buys a handgun would be required to display a permit to carry if a law enforcement officer requests to see it. The bill’s supporters said Iowans aged 21 and older who wish to have a permit will still be able to do so under a revamped optional system. Iowans buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer still would have to either pass a federal background check or present a permit to carry.
The “cumulative effect” of HF 756, passed largely along party lines in both the House and Senate, would be “to make it possible for someone to buy a weapon from a private seller without a background check and carry it anywhere without any training on how to safely operate the gun Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, warned.
Democrats said Iowa’s current background check system that blocked nearly 15,000 illegal sales between 1998 and 2019.
“We don’t need to make it easier for bad guys to get guns,” said Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. Opponents of HF 576 said the change would make it easy for felons, domestic abusers and those prohibited based on mental illness to buy handguns in Iowa. Maintaining the law without change would maintain Iowa’s lower firearm homicide rates, lower firearm suicide rates and lower rates of firearm trafficking.
However, Holt argued the law will have the opposite effect because private sellers would not risk the penalties if they don’t know the buyer has passed a background check. Under the law, private sellers who transferred a firearm if they “know or reasonably should know that the other person is ineligible to possess dangerous weapons” would be committing a Class D felony carrying a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine up of to $7,500.
Based on her earlier comments, gun control advocates had hoped Reynolds would veto the legislation. In the wake of a 2018 Florida school shooting, Reynolds said Iowa had “reasonable and responsible gun laws on the books.” The state’s laws, including gun permits, should remain on the books, she added.
She went on to say the federal government should strengthen background checks, adding that addressing gun violence is not “one thing in isolation.”
“We have to look at everything because it includes everything,” Reynolds said.
In 2019, Reynolds declined to support similar legislation, again saying background checks and permits were “the right thing to do.”
Asked about those statements recently, Reynolds acknowledged that in the past she said the policies in place were good, but she would look at new legislation as it was presented.