Iowa House passes gun bill that nixes need for purchase, carry permits

Joe Kennedy PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives passed a party-line gun bill this week that would allow the purchase and concealed carry of handguns without a permit in many cases.

The bill changes many aspects of gun regulation in Iowa. But two key measures alter the process of buying and selling pistols and revolvers.

Currently, people who want to purchase a handgun at a store must first obtain an annual permit. To get that permit, they must receive a federal background check to ensure no past criminal charges or conditions disqualify them.

Under the bill, would-be buyers could either present a permit or go through a federal background check at the counter.

Republican lawmakers said the change would allow Iowans to practice their Second Amendment rights without a government “permission slip,” as the bill’s sponsor, Iowa Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, put it.

Iowa Rep. Anne Osmundson, R-Volga, said the proposal aligns with requests she has received from constituents asking for measures that would further the right to bear arms.

“They feel like having to ask the government is an infringement,” she said. “They still have to have background checks, which is the most important part.”

Iowa Rep. Steve Bradley, R-Cascade, said he thinks the bill will lead to more federal background checks. And he said expediting the purchase process might also aid safety.

“It’s going to make things safer, especially for women,” he said. “Say somebody’s stalking them. They can go buy a gun right now.”

Tony Koch, owner of Dubuque business Tony’s Jewelry & Loan — where he is a licensed gun seller — said he saw little difference in the proposed change.

“The only thing the permit does is offer a pre-background (check),” he said. “It’s going to be the same procedure as far as I’m concerned.”

The bill also would remove the requirement that a buyer have a permit to buy a gun from another private citizen. And the proposal would not require the seller in that case to secure a federal background check of a buyer.

It only requires that a private seller know or “reasonably should know” that a buyer is not prohibited from possessing a firearm for some reason.

That provision caused Democrat Iowa Rep. Chuck Isenhart’s greatest concern.

“It’s really going to create a new cottage industry of gun dealers,” said Isenhart, of Dubuque. “It’s going to create an incentive, because there are no requirements for a federal background check, for people to sell guns to whomever wants one.”

Dubuque County Sheriff Joe Kennedy said the private sales proposal concerned him the most, as well.

“Not having an outside party vetting people and determining whether or not they can legally possess firearms, you’re basically putting the ultimate decision in the hands of people who have a vested interest in selling firearms,” he said. “It’s no different than letting a bar owner decide the right age to sell people alcohol.”

For both licensed and private sellers, the bill would increase the penalty for selling to someone prohibited from possessing a gun from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony.

The bill also removes the requirement that residents have a permit to carry a concealed gun. Currently, a concealed carry permit requires some gun safety training.

The permits would continue to exist under the proposal. But their existence “will not be construed” as a requirement that the average person have one to carry their gun.

Kelly Allen, proprietor of Catfish Creek Concealed Carry Courses in Dubuque County, said he saw little problem with this piece, despite possible impacts to his business.

“As far as business is concerned, it would make us obsolete for the most part,” he said. “But I’d like to think a lot of people would still want the safety courses. Just because you can buy a gun doesn’t mean you should carry it until you know how to safely.”

The bill also bans local government entities from making any rules that would obstruct what would be considered lawful gun carrying under the proposal.

Kennedy was also concerned about that section.

“A lot of those political subdivisions are areas where people have confrontation,” he said. “School board meetings get emotional. Court proceedings especially get emotional. We have representatives and senators from counties who have 5,000 people, 1,000 people, who do not know what its like to have a courtroom with a lot of people in it. Now my officers can’t have people remove their gun?”

The bill was sent to the Iowa Senate on Thursday, where it will need to pass to reach Gov. Kim Reynolds. A similar bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee along party lines earlier this session.

Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, serves on that committee but did not respond to a request for comment. Iowa Reps. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, and Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, also did not respond to a request for comment.