Analysis of Iowa Weapons Bills

Okay, I’ve read the Iowa Gun Owner’s “Vermont Carry” bill and the NRA’s “shall issue” bill for Iowa. (Working extra hours at my real job and having a sick wife and kid, it took a while to get them read and something written.) The first thing I noticed was that the IGO bill was only 5 pages while the NRA’s was 15. Sometimes good things come in small packages. I’ll spend more time here on the NRA bill for the simple fact that it was longer and more complex than the IGO bill.

IGO Vermont Carry- (House File 2241/ Senate File 473)
This bill is simplicity itself. It would basically repeal the Iowa law that makes it an aggravated misdemeanor for a law-abiding citizen to carry a weapon without a permit. Any Iowan who could legally possess a gun could legally carry it publicly, openly or concealed, without a carry permit.

The bill would make it so “a person who goes armed with a dangerous weapon with the intent to commit a crime of violence commits a class ‘D’ felony.” [Emphasis added.]

Permits to carry weapons would still be available to those who wanted them, perhaps to carry weapons in other states that recognize Iowa permits, for instance. The bill states that the issuing officer “shall” issue such permits to applicants that are not otherwise legally disqualified. The permits would last for five-years, as opposed to the current one year. Besides those two issues, the carry permit system would be much the same as the current one.

It tweaked a few other details in laws that rubbed up against the old permit law. The main point of the bill, however, is that no permit would be required for peaceable Iowans to carry their arms within the state. Anyone who believes that a “right” that you’ve got to ask permission for is no right at all has got to like that.

NRA Shall Issue- (House File 2255)

This bill would reform Iowa’s permit to carry system in several ways. There is a lot of items in this bill that would definitely improve Iowa‘s licensing regime, and also some things not to like. I’ve divided it into:

HF 2255- The Good

Firstly, the bill would require that the issuing authority “shall” issue the permit to qualified applicants. Currently, Iowa sheriffs “may issue” the permit but are not required to do so. It would also increase the longevity of the permit from one year to five.

The bill would also take steps to protect the personally-identifying information of permit holders. Currently the name and address of permit-holders is public information. Some newspapers in Iowa routinely publish lists and locations of permit-holders. So much for privacy. HF 2255 would mandate “that the release of such information does not reveal the identity of any applicant or permit holder.”

HF 2255 would standardize training requirements statewide. Iowans who already had a permit would be grandfathered in. Training requirements for new applicants could be satisfied by: military or law-enforcement training, National Rifle Association certified training courses, or “participation in any organized shooting competition.”

The bill would also allow Iowa to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states, to recognize each others carry permits. While 14 other states currently recognize Iowa’s permits, Iowa recognizes no other state’s permit. Some states will only recognize permits from states that recognize their own. This will allow licensed Iowans to travel armed in more states.

Lastly, HF 2255 would establish an appeals process for denied, revoked or suspended permits. The bill states that if the issuing authority “denies an application for or suspends or revokes a permit to carry weapons or an annual permit to acquire pistols or revolvers, the applicant or permit holder shall have the right to appeal the denial, suspension, or revocation of the permit to an administrative law judge in the department of inspections and appeals within thirty days of receiving written notice of the denial, suspension, or revocation.” That is certainly an improvement over the current “no appeals, no remedy” system.

For those of you keeping track, those are the five key elements long-ago identified as necessary reforms to Iowa weapons law by the gun rights group Iowa Carry. If the NRA would have stopped there it would have been a pretty good bill. Unfortunately, the NRA decided to throw in some “compromises” to make the bill palatable to a wider group of moderate legislators. Which brings us to:

HF 2255- The Bad
The bill creates a new victimless crime of possessing or carrying a loaded firearm on their person or in their vehicle while “under the influence of alcohol,” which would be a serious misdemeanor. If convicted, in addition to any civil penalties, you could then have your carry permit revoked.

Unlike drunk driving laws, which give quantifiable definitions of intoxication, possessing a firearm “under the influence” would be a nebulous guideline open to interpretation and abuse. What it means would basically be decided by the political temperament of your local police and prosecutors.

In my Dueling Gun Bills post I muddled the issue of age restrictions somewhat. Iowans can apply for a professional carry permit when they’re 18, but have to be 21 to get a nonprofessional carry permit. The new bill would keep these age requirements. So, you can be armed to guard other people’s lives and property when you’re 18, but can’t be armed to defend your own until you’re 21. Makes sense right? I know the proper age of majority could be an entire debate in and of itself, but I’m of the mind that if an 18-20 year old is old enough to vote, pay taxes and get his legs blown off in some third-world hellhole he’s old enough to hoist a cold beer with his buddies or carry a pistol. But since this is merely retaining the current standards in Iowa, I can’t really ding the NRA for that one.

Speaking of retaining current standards, HF 2255 would retain Iowa’s ridiculous “annual permit to acquire pistols or revolvers.” That too is “bad.” But more about that in a moment, under the heading of:

HF 2255- The Ugly

I could probably live with the bad things in the previous section. But now we get to what, for me, is a deal breaker. The NRA bill would write the language of the unconstitutional Lautenberg Amendment into Iowa law not once, but twice! Once dealing with carry permits and once dealing with the aforementioned purchase permit. This odious piece of legislation was originally sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg for the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. Among other things it banned the possession of firearms by anyone who had ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or had been subject to court restraining order. Losing your constitutional rights over a misdemeanor doesn’t seem right.

I understand what the intent was behind this law, as it conjures up images of psychotic stalkers and violent wife beaters. Unfortunately, many innocuous victims have gotten caught in the Lautenberg net. “This gun ban has disarmed millions of law-abiding citizens,” points out Kathleen Gennaro, Director of Women’s Policy for Gun Owners of America. “Because of this law, merely spanking a child or slapping a husband could result in a woman’s being disarmed forever.” Men too, Kathleen. I was serving in the Iowa National Guard when this law went into effect and saw how it affected people. No longer able to be issued their duty weapons, many soldiers and cops lost their careers over long-forgotten squabbles with ex-wives or old girlfriends.

Since it was retroactive even to crimes committed before the law passed, it is an ex post facto law, which is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Even the ACLU said “it was inappropriate and a violation of the rights of individual citizens to impose a limitation on gun ownership retroactively for offenses that may have occurred years before.” The amendment also violates the Constitution’s Second and Tenth Amendment principles. Some courts are still kicking around its constitutionality. The NRA should be trying to stamp the Lautenberg Amendment out, not clone it in the states.

So there is the good, the bad and the ugly of HF 2255. There is enough “good” in the bill that I think well-intentioned Iowans can support it in good conscious and certainly without being called “traitors” or any of the other heated rhetoric that is being thrown around lately. I wish them well.

But there is enough “bad” and “ugly” in it (from a libertarian perspective) that I won’t be joining them in support of HF 2255. The bad parts won’t be fixed later, after the NRA has declared victory, collected its donations and gone home. I’ll be supporting HF596/SF473, the IGO’s Vermont Carry bill. It doesn’t compromise any of my principles so, win or lose, I’ll sleep soundly thank you.


2 thoughts on “Analysis of Iowa Weapons Bills”

  1. A good analysis. A couple minor corrections, however. First, an 18 year old can now get a permit to carry weapons in Iowa. The wording is convoluted, but DPS and others have agreed that right now an 18 year old can get one. That same 18 year old can't buy a handgun legally and can't exercise the rights of the permit to carry unless accompanied by an adult. Some say that adult has to have a permit others say just accompanied by. So, this is in fact, a change.

    The other correction is about the Lautenberg Amendment inclusion. What's included are the code sections referencing the law – not the language of the law. By referencing the code sections – which are now binding on all Iowans anyway – if/when the code is declared unconstitutional or just goes away, Iowa mimics that change. We don't get left with the code language actually in Iowa law. The difference is significant.

    I would also like to take note – under the heading of 'good' things – that the bill contains no long list of places where carry is not allowed by law. This is a common inclusion in other states' laws.

    There is no force of law behind any signage put up by a business as exists in most other states.

    There is no mention of concealed versus open carry. So, the new law would apply to both.

    There is a five year term on the permit with only $10 for the term. Cheapest permit of the 36 existing states – bar none.

    Lastly, it can pass and provide personal defense for all Iowan right now.

    These elements combine to make the NRA bill in Iowa the best of the laws in any of the other 36 Shall Issue states. Not a bad jump from where we are now!


  2. Thanks Reedie. Good points.

    Suffice it to say, 18-20 year olds wouldn't have full benefit of any permit, except the professional permit.

    As to the Lautenberg stuff, the copy of the bill I read had language I believe is from the Lautenberg Amendment, but then also referenced it. Such as: “Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as defined in 18 U.S.C.[blah,blah].”

    I hope you're right that that means if the fed law is repealed, that definition goes away too.

    I did notice that the permit was pretty cheap. Good point.


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