Rep. Steven Holt

A bill that would no longer require Iowans to get permits to carry a concealed weapon has made it past initial review in the Iowa House and is scheduled for committee action today. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, said it means Iowans would no longer have to get “a permission slip” for something that’s a constitutional right.

“Let’s bear in mind, we are not plotting new ground here. This is not some revolutionary thing here,” Holt said. “Eighteen states already have constitutional carry, what some would call permitless carry.”

Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition called the move historic.

“Essentially any person who may lawfully possess a dangerous weapon will be able to carry it openly or concealed or in a vehicle,” Rogers said during a subcommittee hearing. “…The right to keep and bear arms is the natural extension of the universally recognized right of self-defense.”

Licensed gun dealers will still conduct an FBI background check before purchases, but the bill also would do away with the required state permit to acquire a gun. Rogers told lawmakers the changes will benefit people who’ve been threatened and want to buy a gun immediately.

“Outright bans and ‘may issue’ permit schemes were created and used by the powerful to keep the less powerful in their place. This is so even here in Iowa,” Rogers said. “Until 10 years ago, Iowa’s 99 county sheriffs had absolute discretion over whether and how to issue permits to carry weapons. Many refused to issue such permits and others frankly abused the system at their whim. Thanks to these roadblocks, just a dozen years ago, only 30,000 Iowans held such permits.”

Current law says sheriffs “shall” issue a permit if the person meets all legal requirements and today more than 400,000 Iowans have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Leslie Carpenter of Iowa Mental Health Advocacy said making it easier to get a weapon quickly is the wrong move in a pandemic when mental health problems have escalated.

“Suicides make up 79% of all gun deaths here in Iowa,” she said during the subcommittee hearing.

Carpenter told lawmakers no one would know her intelligent, “charismatic” son was diagnosed with a psychiatric illness more than a decade ago.

“The prospect of him being able to purchase a gun…fills me with a gut-wrenching dread that I would wish on no other person,” she said.

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said the bill will be a deterrent to efforts to attract new businesses and new workers to Iowa.

“We have a lot of controversial bills that are affecting Iowa’s image right now,” she said.

If the bill becomes law, Iowans could still get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, so they’d have a document to show in other states that DO require gun permits. A similar bill is scheduled for a subcommittee hearing in the Iowa Senate today.