© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Iowa Governor Signs Law Ending Handgun Permit Requirements

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Johnston, a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds says all Iowa residents will be eligible for coronavirus vaccinations on April 5 as long as supply projections are met.
Olivia Sun
The Des Moines Register via AP
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Friday ending the requirement for Iowans to get a permit to buy and carry a handgun.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Friday ending the requirement for Iowans to get a permit to buy and carry a handgun. It takes effect July 1.

“Today I signed legislation that protects the 2nd Amendment rights of Iowa’s law-abiding citizens while still preventing the sale of firearms to criminals and other dangerous individuals,” Reynolds said in a statement.

“This 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.”

Gun buyers will still have to pass a national background check to make a purchase from a licensed dealer. There is no requirement in the new law to get a background check to buy a gun from a private seller, a change critics say opens up a major loophole.

The new law makes it a felony to sell a gun to someone who the seller knows or “reasonably should know” would not be able to pass a background check. Republican supporters of the legislation say they believe this provision will be enough to keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited from owning a gun.

Iowa’s loosening of gun laws comes just about two weeks after mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado.

Gun safety advocates and the Iowa Democratic Party condemned Reynolds for signing the bill into law.

In a statement, Iowa Moms Demand Action volunteer Erica Fletcher said gun violence has increased in states that have weakened their gun laws.

"While we are incredibly disappointed and deeply concerned about the implications of this new law, we will continue fighting to stop Iowa lawmakers from further weakening our gun laws and work to elect people who will actually protect our communities rather than put us at risk," Fletcher said.

The National Rifle Association praised Reynolds’ move Friday and thanked her for “expanding the rights of law-abiding gun owners.” According to the NRA, Iowa is the nineteenth state to allow concealed carry of a handgun without a permit.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted for final passage of the bill on March 22.

“Our system of permits is one of mistrust,” Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said during debate. “That means you can exercise a fundamental right, but you must prove yourself ‘not guilty’ in advance. That’s not how America is supposed to work.”

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said gun permits should continue to be required.

“It’s one of the reasons that with higher gun ownership in Iowa, we actually have a lower rate of gun violence,” Hogg said. “It’s because we have laws that support responsible gun ownership, not gun ownership for bad guys.”

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found gun permit-to-purchase requirements are more effective at reducing gun violence than background checks alone.

The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 31-17 and passed in the House 60-37, with one Democrat joining Republicans in support.

The Iowa Police Chief Association registered against the bill, while other law enforcement groups registered as undecided.

In 2018, the Des Moines Register reported that Reynolds said the state’s gun laws were “reasonable and responsible.” In 2019, she told reporters the shall-issue permit system is “good policy,” according to Radio Iowa. As a state senator, Reynolds voted to require county sheriffs to issue a permit to applicants in most cases if they clear a background check.

The new law makes many additional changes to Iowa’s gun policies. Read about them here.

Reynolds also signed a new law that limits the lawsuits that can be brought against firearm manufacturers and sellers. That also takes effect July 1.

This post was updated Friday, April 2, at 4:35 p.m.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter