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Iowa House Votes To Remove Permit Requirements To Purchase, Carry Handguns

handgun in holster
Mark Humphrey
The Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill that would end the requirement to get a permit to acquire a handgun or carry a concealed weapon.

The Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday night that would end the requirement to get a permit to acquire a handgun or carry a concealed weapon.

Current law requires Iowans to get a permit to acquire a handgun from their county sheriff’s office. If they pass a background check, the sheriff provides a permit that’s valid for five years. The process for getting a concealed carry permit is similar, and also requires an applicant to go through some firearms safety training.

Under the bill, these permits would be voluntary. Iowans buying a handgun from a licensed dealer would still have to pass a background check if they don’t have a permit.

But by removing the permit requirement for private gun sales, the bill does not mandate background checks for private sales. It does, however, make it a felony to sell a gun to someone who the seller knows wouldn’t be able to pass a background check.

An individual who sells a gun to someone they “know or reasonably should know that the other person is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm” could face a prison sentence up to five years and a fine of $1,025 to $10,245.

Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, said he believes that will be enough to deter Iowans from selling guns to strangers without first asking them to get a background check.

“Iowa will be safer and Iowans will be safer when the impediments to self-defense are removed for law-abiding citizens, recognizing that they are not the ones perpetrating the gun violence,” Holt said.

Holt also said he believes more background checks will be conducted under this bill, because some Iowans will get one every time they purchase a gun, rather than every five years when renewing their permit.

Several Democrats rejected Holt’s argument, saying the bill puts a big loophole in Iowa’s background check system. Some Democratic representatives who are lawyers said it would be easy for a defense attorney to argue that an unlicensed gun seller didn’t know about a buyer’s criminal history.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said some people will sell guns without having the buyer get a background check, and that will put Iowans at risk.

“If you wanted them to do a background check, you should’ve written it in the bill,” Mascher said. “It is not there. It is very clear an individual can run a truck through this in terms of the hole that you’ve made.”

Democrats also pointed to a study that found gun permitting is associated with lower rates of gun violence.

After a contentious debate that lasted more than four hours, the bill passed 60 to 37, with Democratic Rep. Wes Breckenridge of Newton joining all 59 Republican representatives voting in favor.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter