Constitutional Carry passed the Iowa House of Representatives last night on a bipartisan vote of 60 to 37. Constitutional Carry is the right to carry a concealed weapon without the requirement to obtain a permit from the government. This has been one of the most controversial issues that we have taken up this year. If this bill is ultimately signed by the Governor, Iowa will join eighteen other states as a Constitutional Carry state.
In order to legally carry a concealed weapon Iowa law currently requires an individual to attend a safety training course and apply to their local sheriff for a permit to carry. The sheriff is required to do a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check, normally referred to as NICS, and also may do some background of his own. If the parameters of federal and state law are met the sheriff shall issue the requested permit. Under the new law, the permit to carry will be optional. Any resident of Iowa who can legally own a firearm will be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Some examples of those not allowed to carry a concealed weapon would be convicted felons, those under court orders for domestic abuse, those under no-contact orders, and those adjudicated for mental disorders.
Many Iowans will choose to acquire or maintain their permit to carry. Iowans must have an Iowa permit to carry in order to legally carry a concealed weapon in states that reciprocate with our permit to carry. Holding a permit to carry will also allow Iowans to bypass the background check when purchasing a firearm in-state since they passed that check to in order receive the permit. Permits to carry must be renewed every five years.
The most contentious points of the debate revolved around the background check issue. Opponents of the bill attempted to claim that this bill eliminates the requirement for a background check in order to purchase a firearm. After nearly five hours of debate I still cannot make heads nor tails of their argument. Under current law, if you possess a permit to carry you can purchase a firearm from any federally licensed firearm dealer (FFL) without a background check because you have already had the check to get the permit. Under the new law there is no change. Without a permit, anyone purchasing a firearm from an FFL will have to undergo a NICS check at the point of sale. Again, no change from the old law to the new law. There are also no changes between the old and the new in regard to sales at gun shows. If the vendors are selling at a gun show they are FFL’s and the buyer will either have a to have a permit to carry or undergo a NICS check at the point of sale. If the NICS check does not occur the dealer will lose his FFL and be prosecuted for a federal felony.
The only change between the old and new law is in regard to sales between two private parties. Under current law if an individual sells a firearm to an ineligible buyer, the seller could be charged with a serious misdemeanor and the purchaser would be subject to a felony charge of illegal possession of a firearm. In the new law, the individual selling to an ineligible buyer would be guilty of a Class D Felony. Conviction of that felony would result in that person being prohibited from owning a firearm for the rest of his life. The safest way for an individual to sell a firearm would be to engage an FFL as a middleman in the process. The FFL will conduct the NICS check and certify that the buyer is eligible to own a firearm.
Other changes in firearms regulation in the bill will allow any certified peace officer, including reserve officers, to carry a weapon on school property at any time. Currently, on-duty officers are the only persons allowed weapons on school property. Under the new law, Emergency Medical Technicians who are attached to a law enforcement tactical unit will be allowed to obtain a professional carry permit after they have received the required firearms training. Both of these changes will serve as force multipliers during critical incidents.
Overall, this bill is another step forward to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families. It is even more critical at this point in history that we protect these rights in light of the anti-Second Amendment sentiment in our nation’s capital. When this bill is signed by the Governor it will remove from Iowans the obligation of asking for and then paying the government for permission to exercise their right to survival.