Gov. Reynolds spoke on the law using a “holistic approach” to emphasize safety through addressing mental and behavioral health issues.
Des Moines Register
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a law allowing people to buy and carry handguns in Iowa without a permit, fulfilling a longtime goal of gun rights advocates.
The law, which some advocates call “constitutional carry,” will take 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, a Republican, said in a statement after signing the measure Friday afternoon.
Democrats and gun violence prevention groups say the law will roll back background checks on handgun sales between private citizens. That’s because, under current law, Iowans must pass a background check to obtain a permit to carry or acquire a handgun before they can legally buy one in a private sale.
On a recent call with Everytown for Gun Safety, Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, called on Reynolds to veto the legislation.
“A person could be able to purchase a firearm from a private seller with no background check and then carry that firearm anywhere in public without any type of firearms proficiency training if this bill is adopted,” Wahls said on the call, explaining why he thought Reynolds should veto the measure.
Wahls also pointed to Reynolds’ own prior comments in support of Iowa’s current gun laws.
In 2018 and 2019 Reynolds said Iowa had “reasonable and responsible gun laws on the books” and that she believed the current permit system — which she voted for as a state senator in 2010 — should remain in place.
At a news conference last week, Reynolds said she would “do a thorough evaluation” of the legislation before deciding whether to sign it. She said that approach was consistent with her previous comments.
“I said I thought the policies were good that were in place but I will continue to take a look at new legislation that is presented,” she said. “And I think that’s the appropriate approach, and that’s what we’re doing right now. And I’ve been very consistent in my messaging on that.”
The bill signing comes weeks after two high-profile mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, drew renewed attention to gun laws.
“We must do more than just pray for those victims and their families, and we must do more to honor their memories than just fly the flags at half-staff,” Wahls said on the call urging Reynolds to veto the legislation. “We have to do everything that we can to prevent this senseless violence in the future.”
More information to be shared on people barred from having guns
The law requires courts to report to a state law enforcement database when someone is determined to be ineligible to possess a firearm for mental health reasons, in addition to reporting that to the federal background check system. And it expands what Iowa reports to the federal background check system about people who are ineligible to possess firearms under state law.
Reynolds praised those provisions in her statement, saying the law “takes greater steps to inform law enforcement about an individual’s mental illness, helping ensure firearms don’t end up in the wrong hands.”
“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,” she said in the statement.
Gun control groups: ‘We will not forget that in 2022’
Reaction to the law came swiftly, with pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association applauding Reynolds and opponents promising to make the law a liability for Reynolds when she faces reelection next year.
Chloe Gayer, a volunteer with Iowa Students Demand Action, a gun violence prevention group that is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, said there’s no reason Reynolds should have signed the law.
“We know — and polling proves — that the vast majority of Iowans, including gun owners, support background checks and requiring a permit to carry a concealed gun,” she said in a statement. “This common-sense law made us safer and now Gov. Reynolds has made Iowa a more dangerous place — we will not forget that in 2022.”
Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann said on Twitter that “despite the misinformation pushed by Democrats and coastal interest groups” the law makes it more difficult for criminals to buy firearms and protects the rights of law-abiding citizens.
“There is only one party committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of Iowans and that’s the Republican Party,” Kaufmann said.
Iowa joins other permitless carry states
Tennessee is also poised to allow adults 21 and older to carry handguns without obtaining a permit. The Tennessee House of Representatives passed the bill on Monday and Gov. Bill Lee is expected to sign it.
In addition to Iowa and Tennessee, at least 15 states already allow concealed carry of handguns without a permit, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association and Everytown for Gun Safety. Two of those, North Dakota and Wyoming, allow permitless carry only for their own residents.
In 2020, Iowa law enforcement issued 85,986 nonprofessional permits to carry weapons and 14,960 permits to acquire pistols and revolvers, according to data provided by the Iowa Department of Public Safety. Those numbers were higher than in the previous three years.
In 2021, as of March 23, law enforcement had already issued 41,568 permits to carry and 2,638 permits to acquire.
In 2020, there were 270,614 background checks conducted in Iowa through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is operated by the FBI. That’s the most of any year dating to 1999, according to NICS data.
Federal background checks in Iowa are on pace to break that record in 2021, with 34,313 checks conducted in January and 30,572 in February.
How will the new law work?
The law makes it optional for Iowans to obtain a permit to carry or a permit to acquire handguns. If they choose not to get a permit, they must pass a background check when buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer.
Supporters say many Iowans will still apply for permits so they can carry their weapons out of state. In all, 36 states and territories, including Iowa, either recognize Iowa’s permits or do not require permits to carry firearms.
Iowans would no longer have to obtain a permit before acquiring a handgun through sales between private citizens.
Currently, there are no background checks for private handgun sales under Iowa or federal law, but opponents of the law say the permitting process ensures people purchasing handguns in private sales have undergone a background check in the past.
It would become a Class D felony to sell, rent or loan a gun to a person that the seller “knows or reasonably should know” is prohibited from owning firearms. That crime would be punishable by up to five years in prison.
Republicans have said the increased penalty will be a deterrent to illegal or questionable sales. Democrats say it will be difficult to prosecute anyone unless there was clear proof the seller knew they were selling a handgun to someone who was legally barred from owning one.
Reynolds on Friday also signed a law limiting the types of lawsuits that can be filed against gun and ammunition manufacturers. When it takes effect July 1, that law will prevent people from filing lawsuits related to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing or sale of firearms and firearms accessories. It will allow lawsuits to be brought in cases of breach of contract or where the gun or accessory was defective.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.
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