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Constitutional Carry Bill Clears Iowa Legislature, Heads To Governor

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Legislation that would allow legal gun owners in Iowa to bear arms without a government-mandated permission slip is on the way to the desk of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds after the state Senate approved the measure on a party line vote of 30-17 on Monday.

House File 756 has been a top priority for Republican lawmakers in the state this session, with supporters arguing that the bill will restore the rights of the citizen against unwarranted government intrusion.

“This bill fundamentally changes the relationship between our state government and our citizens,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, the bill’s floor manager. “Currently, whether we want to admit it or not, our system of permits is one of mistrust. That means you can exercise a fundamental right but you must prove yourself not guilty in advance.

 

That is not how America is supposed to work and I’m not happy with the way our federal government is moving right now. But I know it’s not the way Iowa works and we’re going to deal with that now,” he told his Senate colleagues.

 

“After House File 756, the honest citizen is free from government intrusion in this aspect of their lives. Those who prove themselves not worthy through their own actions, however, will see their penalties increase. This is the proper role and work of government.”

In the Senate on Monday, most of the objections raised by Democrats centered around background checks, which are currently performed by county sheriffs on those applying for a concealed carry license.

Critics said the measure would make it easy for felons, domestic abusers and those prohibited based on mental illness to buy handguns in Iowa. Republicans turned back an amendment seeking to maintain Iowa’s background-check requirement that Democrats said would maintain Iowa’s lower firearm homicide rates, lower firearm suicide rates and lower rates of firearm trafficking.

 

“We don’t need to make it easier for bad guys to get guns,” said Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids.

The bill doesn’t change the background check requirements for gun purchases in the state, so I’m not sure what Hogg is referring to. The vast majority of criminals who are carrying in Iowa (and every other state) don’t possess a concealed carry license as is, and the bill increases the penalty for those who are found in illegal possession of a firearm.

Proponents contended the new approach actually would result in more background checks, as a permit to purchase or carry a handgun now is issued for five years.

Also, the bill includes language that private sellers may not transfer a firearm if they “know or reasonably should know that the other person is ineligible to possess dangerous weapons.” For a seller to do so would constitute a Class D felony carrying a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine up of to $7,500.

 

Other provisions would allow law officers to carry a weapon onto school grounds and would preempt local governments from imposing certain restrictions on authorized gun owners.

The biggest question now is whether or not Gov. Reynolds will sign the Constitutional Carry bill. While the state Senator who was the floor manager for the bill has said that the governor is “excited” to sign the legislation, the Sioux City Journal notes that back in 2019 Reynolds was publicly opposed to permitless carry, calling the state’s concealed carry licensing system “good policy and the right thing to do.”

In addition to the Constitutional Carry measure, Iowa senators also sent House File 621 to Reynolds. That bill would prohibit lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and legal gun sellers that seek to hold them accountable for the third-party actions of criminals. The legislation largely mirrors the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that has been a target of gun control groups and anti-gun politicians ever since.

If Reynolds does sign the Constitutional Carry bill, Iowa would join Utah and Montana in adopting permitless carry language this year. Currently there are 18 states that recognize the right of legal gun owners to carry without a government-issued permission slip, while just eight states still retain “may-issue” laws on the books that grant broad discretion to law enforcement in determining whether or not someone has “good cause” or a “justifiable need” to carry a firearm.

Moms Demand Action is already lobbying the governor to veto the measure, but organizations like the Iowa Firearms Coalition are also calling on members to urge Reynolds to sign the bill. We won’t have to wait too long to find out what the governor will do, because under Iowa statutes if she doesn’t sign or veto the bill within three calendar days, the bill is automatically engrossed into law. In other words, gun owners in the state shouldn’t delay in contacting the governor’s office in support of HF 756, because their voices are needed now.

Apr 15, 2021 2:30 PM ET