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Iowa Bill Would End Requirement For Permit To Purchase, Carry Handguns

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Iowans would no longer have to get a permit to acquire handguns or carry a concealed weapon under a bill advancing in the Iowa House.

Iowans would no longer have to get a permit to acquire handguns or carry a concealed weapon under a bill advanced by Republicans on a House panel Monday.

Iowans purchasing any gun from a licensed dealer would still have to pass a national background check if they don’t have a permit. But the bill removes the permit requirement for private transfers, and makes it a felony to transfer, loan or rent a gun to someone if the owner knows or reasonably should know the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

State law already bans local governments from regulating guns and firearm attachments, and this bill would specify that cities and counties can’t restrict the carrying of firearms.

Richard Rogers with the Iowa Firearms Coalition said the bill would “essentially” allow anyone who may lawfully possess a dangerous weapon to carry it openly, concealed, or in a vehicle.

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

Gun control advocates say Iowa’s permitting system helps reduce gun violence and shouldn’t be dismantled.

Leslie Carpenter with Iowa Mental Health Advocacy said she worries this would make it easier for people with severe mental illness, including her son, to get a gun.

“Iowa’s current background checks and permits do reduce gun violence,” Carpenter said. “And they reduce the public’s fear of guns being in the hands of those who we all agree shouldn’t have guns: convicted felons, domestic abusers, and people who have had a court commitment for treatment of mental illness due to being a danger to themselves or others.”

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said background checks would still be required, and 18 other states allow people to carry concealed handguns without a permit.

“Those who cannot legally possess a firearm…would still not be able to legally possess a firearm under this bill,” Holt said. “And those practicing their Second Amendment rights would no longer have to get a permission slip to practice their basic fundamental right.”

But under the bill, Iowans would be able to obtain guns through private sales without going through a background check.

Holt believes the increased penalty for selling a gun to someone who wouldn't pass a background check is a sufficient safeguard. He said permits will still be an option, and he thinks many Iowans will still get them so they can bring their guns into other states.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that requiring a permit to purchase a handgun is more effective at reducing gun violence than running background checks on their own, and that the national background checks system has gaps and delays.

“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,” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames. “Iowa is a relatively safe place to live…why mess with a good thing?”

Under current law, applicants seeking a permit to carry have to complete an approved firearm safety course. Training would no longer be required to carry a concealed weapon.

In the past 10 years, the number of Iowans who have a carry permit grew from about 35,000 to 400,000, according to Susan Cameron Daemen, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association.

She said the association has some concerns about people coming from out of state and no longer needing a permit to carry a weapon, adding it could be more difficult to figure out if someone from another state has a past felony conviction.

“But that said, this legislation they are undecided on, because they believe you do keep a lot of the enforceable provisions for enforcing the law,” Cameron Daemen said.

The bill would also specifies which law enforcement officers are allowed to carry a gun on school grounds, and would add some emergency medical care providers to the list of people who can obtain a professional permit to carry.

It also prevents landlords receiving rental assistance payments through federal programs from banning the lawful possession of a firearm within a tenant’s home.