DES MOINES, Iowa – A gun omnibus bill that includes permitless carry (also known as constitutional carry) passed through committees in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate this week.
HSB 254 (now HF 756) passed in the Iowa House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday 12 to 8. There was a subcommittee hearing for the bill on Monday.
The Senate companion bill, SSB 1232 (now SF 535), passed out of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday by a 9 to 5 vote. The bill had a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.
Along with permitless carry, the two bills also allow EMTs assigned to a law enforcement tactical team to have a professional permit to carry. It will enable active and reserve law enforcement officers to carry on school grounds whether they are on or off duty. The bill expands handgun safety training. It also strengthens preemption laws to prevent municipalities from further regulating the carrying of firearms beyond what state law allows. The legislation also prevents landlords and government-assisted housing from banning firearms.
In the Iowa House Committee debate, State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, objected that under HSB 254, private transfers or sales of firearms wouldn’t require a background check since current law requires Iowans to have a carry permit or permit to buy to purchase a handgun. Only purchases from a federally licensed dealer will require a carry permit, permit to buy, or a background check under the bill.
“Gun sales have gone up a lot during this pandemic. Many of us are concerned about increased domestic violence that is an app and safe for many people to be home. We are also concerned about mental health issues arising due to the pandemic and tragedy. Tragically, suicide ideation, most of the deaths in Iowa due to gun violence are suicide. We have a lot of controversial bills affecting Iowa’s image and hurting our business and workforce recruitment I believe this is one of them,” she said. “Repealing Iowa’s bedrock public safety laws such as background check law and the permitting requirement for carrying a concealed gun is extreme, unpopular, and a threat to public safety. I would strongly support the permit to carry and background checks for the purchase and carry of a firearm. No constitutional right is unlimited, and firearm enthusiasts should not expect the Second Amendment rights to be unlimited.”
State Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, the bill manager, countered her arguments during his closing remarks.
“Gun sales are up not just because of COVID, Representative Wessel-Kroeschell, but because Americans and Iowans believe that politicians are coming after their firearms and their Second Amendment rights, and they’re trying to buy their firearms as fast as possible. That is why firearm sales are up,” he said.
“(During) your comments, I kept thinking about the fact that we’re going back to the idea that law-abiding citizens are the problem and that the Second Amendment is the problem. Law-abiding citizens are not the problem. The Second Amendment is not the problem,” Holt added, noting that a permit won’t stop a criminal shooting and killing people.
“Anybody that believes a sign, or a permit, are going to prevent these type of atrocities just apparently don’t understand human nature,” he said.
During the more subdued debate in the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, State Senator Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, said he opposed the bill in his current form but said he was working with State Senator Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, the bill manager, on amendments that would improve the legislation from his perspective. He specifically mentioned potential amendments such as creating a way law enforcement can check to see if someone is disqualified under Iowa law from carrying a weapon such as a felon or domestic abuser. Another potential amendment could require people to bring a photo ID, like a drivers’ license, when carrying a weapon.
State Senator Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, opposed the bill and asked why it was necessary.
“What’s the presenting issue here? Are law-abiding citizens having trouble getting firearms? It wouldn’t appear that they are. We’ve seen an enormous increase and not just in the last year. But I’d say for the last decade; we had record gun sales,” he said.
“We’re going to have no background checks with this bill. No permits are going to be required. No training is going to be required; no Sheriff’s involvement to acquire and carry a handgun. And I think it’s kind of interesting people will be able to come to the Capitol with a concealed handgun without any kind of background check,” Bolkcom added.
Schultz responded in his closing comments.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is the infringement of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, inherent in every American Iowans have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, the bear portion of that would be the carrying of arms,” he said.
“If you have to have permission to do something, you do not have a right. You have a privilege similar to driving. You have to get a license to do that. And courts have said that is not a right. I want to; I’d like to restore firearms rights back to their rightful place,” Schultz said.