DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republicans in the Iowa Legislature are again working to rewrite the state’s gun laws with a bill that would allow people to buy firearms and carry a concealed handgun without first obtaining a state permit.
The measure continues moves to lessen restrictions on gun ownership that have been a priority for Republicans since the party took control of state government in 2017.
The bill passed the House on Wednesday night with the support of all Republicans and a single Democrat would eliminate current state permit requirements and the accompanying background checks that ensure the person obtaining or carrying a gun isn't disqualified from ownership due to past felonies or abuses. The bill also eliminates firearms training now required to obtain a gun permit.
Currently, buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer requires a background check. In Iowa to buy a handgun from anyone else, a carry or purchase permit is required that necessitates a background check. There are no such protections even now for someone buying a rifle or shotgun from a unlicensed seller in the state, leading the gun safety advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety to argue that Iowa’s laws are already weak.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
“Those practicing Second Amendment rights would no longer have to get a permission slip to practice their basic fundamental right,” said Rep. Steven Holt, a Republican western Iowa businessman who has been a driving force behind previous gun rights expansion laws.
House Republican Leader Matt Windschitl, who has tried for years to pass similar measures, said the bill is about “the basic human rights to self preservation that is encompassed in the Second Amendment.”
Scott Jones, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said Iowa’s current laws treat gun rights as a privilege and not a right. He said criminals already carry concealed guns without regard for the law so the bill improves Iowans' right of self defense.
“This legislation simply puts law abiding Iowans on equal footing,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Christina Bohannan, a constitutional law professor at the University of Iowa, said the current permit system strikes a balance between the rights of gun owners and the rights of everyone to be safe in public spaces. Under this bill, Iowa would have no permit requirement for the first time in more than 40 years.
“By eliminating state permit requirements and background checks this will make it much more difficult to stop gun violence before it happens,” she said.
Traci Kennedy, a volunteer with the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action, said the bill weakens gun measures widely supported by Iowans and raises basic public safety concerns.
“What keeps me up at night is wondering whether my children will be safe at school or will be safe in any number of public places if these most basic restrictions are firearms are lifted,” she said.
The bill has no registered support from Iowa law enforcement or public safety organization lobbyists, and Polk County Sheriff Sheriff Kevin Schneider, a Democrat, said the bill presents an increased danger to law enforcement officers because if the law passes “people will now have access to guns with the same convenience as buying a bottle of water — no questions asked.”
Iowa is among 22 states that now require background checks for firearm sales.
Most states, including Iowa, now require a permit to carry a handgun in public, but the bill would place Iowa among 17 states that don't require a permit to carry in public.
The House on Wednesday also passed a bill that would make it more difficult to sue a company that makes, imports, distributes or sells a gun for injuries caused by its lawful use unless it is proven defective.
Since they gained control of the legislature in 2017, Republicans have chipped away at gun laws. The first year they had the majority, Republicans approved a stand your ground law that allows people to use deadly force anywhere they feel their life or safety is at risk. Last year Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a measure that protects shooting ranges from being shut down by cities or counties and prohibits local governments from passing local laws on firearm ownership, possession or transfer.
In January, Republicans passed without Democratic votes a resolution to add gun rights language to the Iowa Constitution, If approved by voters in November 2022, it would make Iowa one of only four states with language that could make it easier to strike down gun laws.
While Republican-run states are seeking to weaken gun laws Democrats now in charge in Congress are pushing for more gun limits nationally. The U.S. House recently passed two bills to require background checks on all firearms sales and transfers and to allow an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases. Passage is likely to be difficult in the equally divided U.S. Senate,