What’s In Iowa’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ Law?

226fd-range_shooterOn April 13th, 2017 Governor Branstad signed HF517 into law. Iowa Firearms Coalition, the chief catalyst for getting it passed, called it “the biggest gun bill in Iowa history.” While supporters say it will revitalize Iowans’ Second Amendment rights and increase safety, opponents said that it would take Iowa back to the “Wild West” and was even “evil” and sanctioned “racism.” Wow!

So, what’s actually in this thing? Let’s take a look. (Bear in mind that this piece is written by a layman for laymen. I’m not an attorney and nothing I say should be considered legal advice. I’m way too underpaid for that.) The law is broken down into fourteen separate divisions, each one dealing with a different topic.

Division One is pretty straight forward, it simply gets rid of Iowa’s state ban on “short-barreled” rifles and shotguns. Keep in mind that you still have to comply with federal law on these. This means paying hundreds of dollars to the federales, registering the weapon with them, getting a tax stamp, and a bunch of other stuff I’m never going to do. I’ll just stick with a 16″ or longer barrel. But Iowans who want short-barreled weapons now have legal avenue to get them.

Division Two is titled “CARRYING WEAPONS AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS” and is a bit more wide-ranging.  Most important here is that it changes Iowa law to recognize that “going armed with intent” to do bad things cannot be inferred just because someone is carrying a concealed weapon. That’s good news for Iowa’s 200,000+ permit to carry (PTC) holders, since lawfully carrying your firearm alone can no longer be used an excuse to charge someone with that class D felony by some politically motivated prosecutor.

Another provision in Division Two allows duly licensed private investigators  and private security officers to carry weapons on school grounds in the performance of their duties. That won’t affect many people.  This division also makes it a serious misdemeanor to carry or possess a dangerous weapon if you’re legally intoxicated, unless you’re on your own property.

One last provision here allows someone who gets busted for not having their PTC with them to have the charge dismissed if they show the court that they did indeed have a valid permit. Previously, forgetting your permit at home was the same as not having one at all.

Division Three seeks to clean up and clarify the PTC application process and training requirements. One change is that applicants will only have to provide proof of training for their INITIAL permit. It’s no longer required for renewals. That proof of training can come from the usual sources: military or police training from any time, or civvy training within the prior twenty-four months.

One thing that had opponents’ undies in a bunch was that this provision specifically says internet training was acceptable.  Regardless of what the law says, I hope everyone gets as much good hands-on training as they can as soon as they’re able to. Not to appease the naysayers, which is a fool’s errand, but because it just makes good sense.

This provision also spells out that if you don’t apply for your renewal of a PTC within 30 days prior to its expiration or 30 after, your next application will be treated as an initial permit, WITH the training requirements and a $50 fee rather than a $25 renewal fee. Division Three also states that PTC’s will now have a uniform appearance statewide and if a PTC applicant is found to have been wrongfully denied a PTC that applicant can be awarded court costs.

Division Four is another straight forward provision. It merely makes Iowa’s completely unnecessary ” permit to acquire pistols or revolvers” good for 5 years, instead of the current 1 year. It will also make sure they are of a uniform appearance statewide. These archaic things were rendered redundant with the introduction of required instant background checks with gun sales, which is why gun rights supporters initially tried to scrap them outright. Oh well, this is still progress on this front.

For some reason Division Five elicited a lot of pants wetting by liberals and the press (but I repeat myself). This provision merely allows parents to instruct their children on how to safely handle handguns. A previous Iowa law said a child had to be at least 14 to even touch a handgun (but were allowed to fire rifles and shotguns at any age of the parents’ discretion).

HF517 states: “A parent or guardian or spouse who is twenty-one years of age or older, of a person under the age of twenty-one may allow the person ,while under direct supervision, to possess a pistol or revolver or the ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose , or while the person receives instruction in the proper use thereof from an instructor twenty-one years of age or older, with the consent of such parent, guardian or spouse.” The law defines “direct supervision” as: “supervision provided by the parent, guardian, or spouse who is twenty-one years of age or older and who maintains a physical presence near the supervised person conducive to hands-on instruction, and who maintains visual and verbal contact at all times with the supervised person.” Clutch my pearls!

I don’t understand how handguns are fundamentally different from rifles or shotguns. If kids are bound to encounter all types of firearms, why not be able to teach them about all types. When this same provision was proposed last year, opponents declared that it would create a “militia of toddlers” in Iowa. When opponents are reduced to arguing against issues with absurd hyperbole they obviously have no clue and no credibility.

Division Six is also pretty simple. It merely states that personally identifiable information on nonprofessional PTC holders kept by the Commissioner of Public Safety and county sheriffs shall be kept confidential. No more releasing the names and addresses of permit holders to the newspapers to be printed for back-fence gossip or as shopping lists for burglars.

Division Seven strengthens Iowa’s existing preemption law, which had previously been rendered almost meaningless by the state’s anti-gun attorney general. The new provision states that if a city or county makes a rule regulating gun ownership that is otherwise legal in the state, the person adversely affected may sue that city or county for damages.

Division Eight allows for PTC holders to carry concealed at the Iowa state capitol buildings and grounds. This is probably not something that most of us will be doing much of, but is probably more of a symbolic gesture since Iowans should be able to exercise basic freedoms there.

Division Nine prohibits the governor or local officials from seizing legal firearms or curtailing normal gun rights during a state of emergency. If an official violates this provision, it allows the aggrieved person to seek return of property, damages and/or injunctive relief.

Division Ten is probably the laws most controversial provision, what is commonly called “stand-your-ground.” While this got the most press it will probably not affect most gun owners (thank God). If you find yourself impacted by the stand-your-ground provisions of this law, you’re already in a world of hurt.

The “justifiable use of reasonable and deadly force” was already covered by existing law and HF517 alters some of the parameters around it, but not as drastically as you might think. If fact the legal definition of “reasonable force” doesn’t change at all. It’s still: “[T]hat force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat.”

Since the definition of “reasonable force” hasn’t changed, it stands to reason that what was “unreasonable” before the new law is still “unreasonable.” So people who think that the HF517 gives gun owners carte blanche to act like they’re in a Quentin Tarantino movie have another thing coming.

The new law does add that “a person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.” [Emphasis added.]

It also adds that a “person who is not engaged in illegal activity has no duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force as specified in this chapter.” That sentence is the meat of “stand-your-ground” that, for some reason, gives some people fits.

The law makes a few other tweaks as well, such as providing some criminal and civil immunity for a person is justified in using reasonable force.

I’m no lawyer, but none of this reads like stuff that will allow you to shoot everyone for no reason and certainly doesn’t declare an “open season on black people” (as I heard one critic warn). In fact, this isn’t some strange alien legal concept; only 15 states DON’T have “stand-your-ground” laws. By imposing a legal duty on crime victims to turn their back to their attackers and try to flee, Iowa was among the minority fringe of states. But no longer; welcome to normalcy Iowa!

Division Eleven makes it a class “D” felony to illegally buy a weapon or ammo, knowingly provide false information on your gun purchase paperwork, or get someone else to do it for you. This shouldn’t affect you unless you’re a crook.

Division Twelve removes the previous requirement that a person on a snowmobile or ATV carry their handgun a special retention holster. You can now use any kind of holster.

Division Thirteen was a rather neat little surprise since I didn’t really hear about it until I read the law for myself.  It states that owners or tenants of private property in unincorporated areas (or folks with their permission) may discharge a firearm for target practice on those private premises. Further, “the use of such private premises for target shooting shall not be found to be in violation of a noise ordinance or declared a public or private nuisance or be otherwise prohibited under state or local law.” Ideally this law shouldn’t be necessary since you should be able to do pretty much whatever you want on your own land, but it’s a nice protection since that’s often not how it goes in modern America.

Division Fourteen sets up the effective dates. The section allowing parents to train their kids on handgun safety (Division Five) and the section keeping personal PTC information confidential (Division Six) go into effect immediately. All the rest go into effect July 1st, which is when new Iowa laws usually take effect. Division Fourteen also states that Division Six confidentiality is for nonprofessional PTC holders.

In total, HF517 can certainly be viewed as a huge win for Iowa’s gun owners. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be a loss for any other Iowan (other than maybe the occasional ruffian). So if you are someone who is morosely fretting about the sky falling from Wild West shootouts, racial genocide and toddler militias out your front door: Take heart! Your fellow Iowans are not the irresponsible, despicable, racist, pieces of human debris that you’ve been led to believe they are. Life will go on, just as it did after the “shall issue” permit law was passed, and individual Iowans are a bit freer. That’s a good thing.



Iowa Gun Group Unveils Ambitious Agenda

6f1dd-ifcWith both chambers of the Iowa legislature now under Republican control, Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) appears ready for a year full of action in Des Moines. In a recent communique, Barry B. Snell, IFC’s Executive Director, expressed enthusiasm that many of the groups legislative goals would reach fruition this year. In previous years these bills had languished in the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate. I’ve been a member of this group since way back when they were still called “Iowa Carry” and I’ve never seen a declaration from them expressing this much certainty of getting bills passed.

First on IFC’s to-do list is a right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) amendment to the Iowa Constitution. Snell points out that ours is one of only six states that doesn’t have a provision protecting citizens’ guns rights in its state constitution. The progress we make on gun rights in the state could be swept away quickly without the “set in stone” protection of a state constitutional amendment.

Since amending the state constitution is a complicated multi-year process, IFC wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. (Appropriately, on the opening day of Iowa’s 2017 legislation session this Monday, 29 lawmakers in the Iowa Senate introduced Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR2) to add this amendment.)

Snell next mentions “The Youth Safe Shooting and Parental Rights Act.” Almost passed last year, this bill would fix Iowa’s nonsensical law which makes it illegal for parents to teach their children under 14 how to safely handle a handgun. Since the current law is so silly and unknown to most people, Snell rightly points out that it has probably made “thousands of otherwise good, law-abiding Iowans into unwitting felons – and for no good reason!” Snell seemed all but certain this bill would be signed into law this year.

Next in  IFC’s agenda are the perennial favorites of Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine bills. Both passed in the Iowa House in 2012, but died in the Iowa Senate. Next was Constitutional Carry (or what we used to call “Vermont Carry) “allowing all Iowa citizens with a legal right to possess firearms to carry them without a government tax and permission slip.”

Also mentioned were bills to:

  • strengthen Iowa’s preemption law which forbids localities from placing onerous restrictions on firearms
  • “better allow school teachers to carry, eligible faculty, staff, students and visitors at Iowa’s Regents universities to carry, and of course, allow Iowans to carry in public places such as the Iowa Fairgrounds.”
  • “protect the individual’s right to keep a firearm in their vehicle regardless of where it is parked.”
  • protect the personal information of weapons permit holders,
  • streamline Iowa’s “goofy” permit to carry renewal process.
  • allow bowhunters to carry their self-defensive arms when hunting.

That is certainly an ambitious agenda. We definitely need the RKBA amendment to the state constitution first and foremost. Beyond that, if IFC can even get a portion of their list accomplished it may be a banner year for Second Amendment supporters in Iowa.


Iowa’s Omnibus Gun Bill Needs Help

The Omnibus Gun Bill (HF527/SF425) passed with overwhelming support in the Iowa House but appears to now be languishing in the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate. Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC), one of the state’s leading pro-gun groups, has been counting votes in the State Senate and believes the bill would pass easily, if only it would be released for a vote by the Senate’s anti-gun leadership.
In addition to legalizing silencers in the state (for those who undergo the requisite federal procedures), the Omnibus Gun Bill would also:
  • Update Iowa’s concealed carry law to move the retraining requirement to every 10 years instead of every 5.
  • Simplify the concealed carry permit renewal process and allow a 60 day window to renew.
  • Exempt military veterans from having to get training before applying for a Permit to Carry.
  • Remove the “permit to acquire” mandate for handgun purchases (FBI NICS program would still be used for purchases).
  • Clarifies that online training is acceptable for a concealed carry permit.
  • Remove the age restriction on minors shooting while supervised by a parent or guardian.
  • Make it illegal to share any identifying information about any of Iowa’s concealed carry permit holders.
  • Make all permits across Iowa uniform in appearance.
Not only have the NRA and IFC endorsed the bill, but the Iowa Peace Officers Association, Iowa Police Chiefs Association, and the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association as well. Despite this wide-ranging support, the bill now risks being sabotaged by a very small handful of anti-gun State Senators.
What can you do to help?  IFC is urging everyone to take the following three simple steps (in their words):

If you haven’t already, please sign and share our petition calling on the Senate leadership to stop playing games and bring SF425 to a vote.

The anti-gun crowd has submitted a petition to block the Omnibus Gun Bill. They got a paltry 1,600 signatures. We’re betting we can top that pretty easily. Please take 30 second to sign and share this!!


Contact your Senator, and the Senate leadership. Tell them you want to see SF425 brought to a vote AS IS. It’s time for a vote! Keep your messages brief, respectful and on point. Here’s a great example of an email to the Senate leadership. Send your emails to:mike.gronstal@legis.iowa.govsteve.sodders@legis.iowa.gov, pam.jochum@legis.iowa.govjoe.bolkcom@legis.iowa.gov, &
your Senator.

Don’t have your Senator’s email address? Not sure who your Senator is? Find who represents you and their contact info using our Legislative Action Center.


NOTE: The Senate switchboard is only operational while the Senate is in session. The next time you can call and leave a message will be when the Senate returns to work on Monday at 1 p.m.

When you call the Senate switchboard – 515-281-3371 – on Monday leave a message for the Senate leadership: “Listen to the people of Iowa. Listen to Iowa law enforcement. Bring SF425 to a vote AS IS.” Ask that the message is delivered to Senators Gronstal, Sodders, Jochum and Bolkcom.

Pro-Freedom Bills In Des Moines- Feb. 2015

Iowa State House; Des Moines, Iowa; June 30, 2013.JPG
There are some good bills floating around in the Iowa legislature this year that could use our support.
Gun Rights Bills
First up are four pro-gun owner bills and the synopsis for each one provided by the Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC).
House File 45 – Emergency Powers This bill guarantees that Iowan’s Second Amendment rights remain intact during times of public emergencies, when the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones is needed most. In short it would keep Hurricane Katrina style confiscations from happening here in Iowa.

House File 59 – Preemption Clarification
HF59 amends IA Code 724.28 which says local municipalities and governing bodies shall not preempt or supersede state firearms law. Iowa has had a preemption law for almost 25 years, but every year many local municipalities continue to try to work around this law and illegally in fringe on Iowan’s rights. This bill would strengthen the current code and provide citizen’s rights greater protections from over zealous governing bodies.

House File 92 – Stand Your Ground
This legislation would remove a person’s “duty to retreat” from an attacker in any location.  This would allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves or their family anywhere they are lawfully present.  This legislation would also expressly enhance the protections against criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits when justifiable force is used.

House File 99 – Repeal the Youth Shooting Ban 
Currently anyone under the age of 14 is strictly prohibited from holding or shooting a handgun in Iowa – regardless of whether or not that minor is under parental supervision. HF99 would amend the state code to allow a person under 14 to lawfully shoot a handgun, with proper supervision, as long as their parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older has provided consent.

IFC maintains an Legislative Action Center site where you can send a pre-written message to your Iowa representatives urging them to support these bills.
Contraband Bills
If polls are right, about 38% of you reading these words have tried marijuana. Most of you did NOT end up living in a van down by the river or murdering your parents with a pitchfork as pot alarmists would have everyone believe. And although fireworks have been illegal in Iowa since the 1930’s, many Iowans bootleg them in and light them off.
There are three bills that seek to lessen the nanny state’s grasp on these relatively harmless, yet illegal activities. Reducing penalties for pot would free up jail space for violent bad guys, saving the state money. Legalizing fireworks would supply the state with an additional source of tax revenue.

Reduces marijuana possession penalties involving up to 28.5 grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a simple misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine. 
 Reduces marijuana possession penalties involving up to 5 grams of cannabis. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 1 in favor of this legislation, which now moves on to the full Senate for debate.
You can go to the NORML website to send a pre-written message of support for these bills to your Iowa legislators here.
This would legalize certain retail fireworks for purchase by Iowa consumers.
Freedom of Movement
This bill would raise the speed limit to 75 on some of Iowa’s rural interstate highways.
This bill would prevent Iowa counties and cities from adopting ordinances barring 19- and 20-year-old adults from bars. This would most notably shoot down Iowa City’s 21-ordinance. I wrote about why denying these legal adults their rights to liberty, peaceable assembly and pursuit of happiness was fundamentally wrong here.
Be sure to let your Iowa State Representative or Senator know how you feel about any of these potential  laws above.

Gold, Guns and Drones

The bills continue to flow through the legislative sausage press in Des Moines. They range from atrocious to pretty good. Here are a few more that caught my eye.

Bad Bills:

Two of the bad bills, SF233 & HF 164, are “universal background check” bills. Remember: “Universal Background Checks= Gun Registration= Gun Confiscation.”

Senate File 233: Iowa Gun Owners calls this Iowa’s “Most Dangerous Anti-Gun Bill of 2013.” Hidden among innocuous provisions of an “education” bill, this bill would mandate that virtually every firearm transfer in the state go through a licensed gun dealer so that a NICS check may be conducted. If you think the gun dealer will do that for you for free when you want to sell your old shotgun to your neighbor, I’ve got some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.

Even more ominous, this bill would also require social workers, guidance counselors, physician’s assistants and even nurses to report you to authorities if they think you’re acting a little too weird to have Second Amendment rights. Obviously no one wants dangerous lunatics to have guns, but I don’t want some busybody nurse or social worker being able to strip people of their rights.

House File 164: According to Iowa Firearms Coalition: “It would require background checks be conducted by an FFL on ALL private firearm transfers with no exceptions, and allows the dealer to collect fees in the process. HF 164 would also provide for limitless fees (taxes) for transfers in order to fuel this enormous bureaucratic process, and allow the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to create ‘rules’ as necessary on how to implement the system, which is just another form of universal registration.”

House File 163: This would ban the sale and transfer of any ammunition feeding device that holds more than 10 rounds of ammo. This was introduced by Representative Bruce Hunter (D-34), the same guy who introduced HF164 above. What a douche!

Senate Study Bill 1165/ House Study Bill 91: These twin bills would circumvent Iowa’s normal search warrant process and replace it with a phony-baloney rubberstamp process for allowing officials to plant GPS trackers on Iowans’ vehicles. That is inconsistent with the constitutional requirements under the U.S. and Iowa constitutions governing searches. Click HERE to learn more and to contact the appropriate subcommittee members on this bill.

Good Bills:

House File 346: This bill would recognize gold and silver coin as legal tender in the state of Iowa. You may recognize that this is an authorized state power under the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 10. There are lot of good economic reasons for this as well as ones dealing with federalism. Caffeinated Thoughts had a great writeup on the bill you should check out for more details.

Senate File 276: This would place a moratorium on the use of surveillance drones by all state agencies in Iowa and strictly prohibit weaponized drone systems. It would allow the use of drones under several limited circumstances such as search and rescue operations or AMBER Alert searches. Anything that can slow the growth of the surveillance state that we more and more find ourselves living in is a good thing.

SF276 is currently stalled because the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Robert Hogg (D- Cedar Rapids), is sitting on it. Please contact Hogg and ask him to give SF276 the consideration it deserves and schedule a hearing ASAP. (rob.hogg@legis.iowa.gov , 319-247-0223)

With all these bills please contact your state legislator and voice your support or opposition.

Speaker List For NRA/IFC Rally

I recieved the following from NRA-ILA (Ben):

Save The Date!

The National Rifle Association (NRA), Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) and Brownells will host the 3rd Annual Second Amendment Rally on Saturday, August 25 from 9AM to 5PM at Brownells’ Big Springs Shooting Complex. Firearm and hunting manufacturers and representatives will be in attendance, and the event will offer a variety of shooting and training opportunities. If you are an NRA or IFC member, your range fees will be waived. NRA members and media are invited and encouraged to attend this free event and meet many of Iowa’s pro-Second Amendment legislators and activists. The speaker list for this event has now been confirmed, and will include speeches by many notable Second Amendment advocates, including:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

U.S. Congressman Steve King

U.S. House Candidate Ben Lange

U.S. House Candidate John Archer

State Senator Jerry Behn

State Senator Tim Kapucian

State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck

State Senator Joni Ernst

State Senate Candidate Matt Reisetter

State Senate Candidate Amy Sinclair

State Senate Candidate Dan Zumbach

State Senate Candidate Ken Rozenboom

State Representative Linda Upmeyer

State Representative Chris Hagenow

State Representative Matt Windschitl

Jan Mickelson

Pete Brownell, CEO of Brownells and NRA Board Member

Jeff Burkett, President of Iowa Firearms Coalition

Third Annual Second Amendment Rally
When: Saturday, August 25
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
(Speeches to start at 11:00AM)
Where: Brownells’ Big Springs Shooting Complex
4945 Highway 146
Searsboro, Iowa 50242
For directions, please click here.
RSVP Online: Please click here
Please see Iowa Firearms Coalition’s Second Amendment Rally page by clicking here.
To view this event on Facebook, please click here.

IFC To Host 3rd Annual Rally

Save the date August 25th.  On that day Iowa Firearms Coalition, Iowa’s premiere gun rights group, will be hosting its third annual Second Amendment Rally.  The event will be from 9am to 5 pm at the Brownell’s Big Springs Range Complex outside Searsboro Iowa.  Admission is FREE for everyone. No range fees for IFC or NRA members.

The keynote speaker will be Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  According to IFC’s Rally Homepage, other activities will include:

  • Grassroots discussions with legislators
  • Boy Scouts of America flag ceremony
  • Fully automatic weapons rentals
  • Cowboy Action Shooters demonstration- SASS
  • IDPA demonstration
  • .50 caliber rifle shoot
  • 3-Gun Competition walk-through
  • Suppressed weapons demonstration /education
  • Great Iowa vendor food fair
  • Firearms educational workshops
  • Firearms raffle tickets (will be raffled at a later date)
  • Show and Tell Range
  • IFC Grassroots involvement workshop and information
  • and more..
  • Last year over 1,000 Iowans attended the event.  IFC hopes to double that attendance this year.

    Big Springs Range Complex is located at 5015 HWY 146 Searsboro, IA 50242.