DES MOINES, Iowa — A bill that would no longer require Iowans to obtain a permit to purchase and carry a gun advanced out of House and Senate committees this week, making it eligible for passage this session.
Republicans in both chambers approved the measures out of Committee meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday along party lines.
Supporters say it will send a message that Iowa respects the Second Amendment, ridding the “permission slip” needed to exercise the right to bear and carry arms.
“If you have to have permission to do something, you do not have a right,” said Sen. Jason Schultz (R) — Schleswig.
“Are law-abiding citizens having trouble getting firearms,” questioned Sen. Joe Bolkom (D) — Iowa City. “It wouldn’t appear they are.”
The bill also adds penalties for private citizens selling firearms, making it a Class D felony for a private citizen to sell to someone they “know or reasonably should know” is prohibited from owning firearms. That’s punishable by up to five years in prison.
“You can sell without those documents but you bear the full responsibility of the law if something goes wrong,” said Sen. Schultz.
But there is not a clear way for a private citizen to run a background check of their own on someone they are selling to.
Schultz said, “So what this comes down to is citizen, personal responsibility, and your risk threshold.”
“If I don’t know that person real well, I’m gonna go to that federally licensed dealer,” said Rep. Steven Holt (R) – Denison.
“No background checks with this bill, no permits are going to be require, no training is going to be required, no sheriff involvement,” said Sen. Bolkom.
While opponents say it will make Iowa less safe, gun shop owners say it will lead to more background checks than not.
“It’ll be a little more work on the retailers’ end, you know we’ll probably have to add some new technology or expand our current technology and maybe hire another staff member or two. But I think overall with more background checks, I think it will actually enhance public safety,” said Ethan Settle, CrossRoads Shooting Sports manager.
Because gun retailers are federally licensed, they would still have to run a background check on any individual wanting to purchase a firearm, regardless of whether the state requires permits.
Still, Democrats say fewer restrictions leave Iowans more vulnerable.
“This is an extreme effort in front of us, again what is the problem,” questioned Sen. Bolkom.
If this bill becomes law, it will join a proposed amendment the legislature passed earlier to change the state constitution to protect the right to keep and bear arms. That will head to voters to decide on in 2022.