In Final Days, Legislature Reforms Gun Law

For years, many have hoped and worked diligently to improve Iowa’s law granting permits to citizens wishing to carry firearms. The 2010 legislative session began with the issue appearing ready to receive attention. However, as the weeks wore on, and despite fervent efforts of some in the Legislature, the issue appeared destined to be neglected once again.

However, in the final days of the session a bill to make Iowa a “shall issue” state was resurrected. Even then, the issue’s fate was not settled. But as the clock wound down, and the last “trains” were leaving the station, Senate File 2379 became the last policy bill to be passed in 2010.

The bill will change Iowa gun laws and the rights of citizens in a number of key ways. No longer will a sheriff have the discretion to deny a permit or refuse to issue permits outright to residents of the county. Instead, Iowa law will require that a sheriff shall issue a permit to any eligible applicant.

Instead, Iowa law will require that a sheriff shall issue a permit to any eligible applicant.

Under current law, sheriff’s are allowed to place restrictions on any application they approve. These restrictions can at times be arbitrary and render a permit useless. For example, a permit may be issued with the limitation that an individual may only lawfully carry while they are in possession of “valuables.” Or it may limit the permit by not making it valid while within city limits or in a vehicle. With the passage of Senate File 2379, sheriff’s may no longer attach restrictions to a permit.

Today, if your application for a permit to carry is denied, the sheriff has no duty to tell you why and you have no opportunity to appeal that decision. Senate File 2379 sets up a clear appeals process with deadlines to ensure the process moves forward in a timely manner. Additionally, the sheriff must provide their reason for denial of a permit at the time it is rejected.

The new law has a strong reciprocity provision, whereas the State currently has none. Iowa will recognize all valid licenses from states who have a permit to carry law. With this provision in place, other states will certainly open their doors to Iowa’s permits as well.

Iowans will no longer be required to go in each year and renew their permit. It will now be valid for five years. The issue of required firearms training was discussed in great depth. Under current law, you may be required to complete training each year. You will now be required to qualify only every five years. However, rather than again participating in and paying for another firearms training program, you can request to complete a shooting test. That option should be much less time consuming and cumbersome for an individual wishing to renew their permit.

Senate File 2379 passed both the House and the Senate and awaits the Governor’s signature in order to become law. The changes will not become effective until January 1, 2011.