Through HF 517, the firearms permitting process is made simpler and safer, parents are guaranteed the opportunity to teach their children how to safely handle firearms, the privacy of Iowans who have a firearms permit is protected and Iowans are given the right to defend themselves. The bill also includes several other changes to the law that House Republicans have worked on for the past seven years.

Permit to carry weapons and firearm safety training

Divisions three and four of the bill address the firearms permitting process. Nonprofessional permits to carry and permits to acquire will both be issued for five years. In order to get an initial nonprofessional permit to carry, a person must complete a firearms safety class that can be done online or in person. Additional classes are not required when a permit is renewed. While the permits are issued for five years, the office that issues a permit to carry or acquire may conduct annual criminal history checks.

Under current law, permits to carry and acquire can look significantly different depending on where the permit is issued. HF 517 creates a uniform appearance for both a permit to carry and a permit to acquire. Having a uniform permit system will make it easier to verify the validity of a permit in any situation.

Possession of pistols and revolvers by persons under the age of 14

Current law does not allow a parent to teach their child how to safely handle a pistol or revolver if they are under 14. There is no restrictions on shotguns or rifles and this imbalance has created problems for law abiding Iowans. The bill allows a parent or guardian to supervise a child, under the age of 21, while they lawfully use a pistol or revolver. The guardian must remain in close proximity and have visual and verbal contact with the child using the pistol or revolver. The guardian will be strictly liable to an injured party for all damages resulting from the possession of the handgun. Under current law, and this bill, anyone else who allows a person under 14 to possess a handgun is guilty of a class “D” felon.

Permit confidentiality

Iowans who have a permit to carry or acquire firearms risk having their private information released to the public. HF 517 requires DPS and the county sheriff to keep this personally identifiable information private. The information may only be released to law enforcement under certain circumstances. The Department of Public Safety or the County Sheriff can also confirm the validity of a permit. 

Stand your ground and justifiable use of reasonable force

Under HF 517, Iowans will finally be allowed to stand their ground and protect themselves and others from violent attacks. A person will be permitted to use reasonable force, up to and including deadly force, to protect themselves or others if there is reasonable belief that force is necessary. By removing the duty to retreat Iowans no longer have to run and hide in dangerous situation and can instead stop an attack. The bill also presumes that a person is justified in using deadly force if they believe it is necessary to protect themselves or others in their home, place of business or vehicle. A person who uses self-defense is not liable, either criminally or civilly, to the aggressor who was injured or killed. Additional langue in the bill clarifies that a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs may not possess a dangerous weapon; however, they may still be justified in using a weapon in self-defense.

After seven years of hard work, House Republicans were successful in passing a comprehensive firearms bill that ensures Iowans freedoms are protected. The bill has been sent to the Senate where the Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on it sometime soon.

I am also getting numerous emails about the bottle bill. It was introduced in the Environmental Protection Committee, but I doubt it will go far this year. The current redemption process is resulting in about 86 percent of the eligible cans and bottles being redeemed. Unfortunately, most of these contaminated cans and bottles are returned to the very grocery stores that also distribute our new food source. That's a growing health concern. Also, the current program only applies to less than three percent of all recyclables in Iowa. The desire is to launch a new state wide recycling program in Iowa that covers the whole state for all recycling goods even in rural areas.

Finally, we started working on HF 295, which is a Statewide Commerce and Local Government Preemption Bill. The bill upholds the current state labor and commerce laws by not allowing cities or counties to set their own laws on things like minimum wage and other employment benefits that differ from state or federal laws. It also stops them from banning containers, bottles or packages used across the rest of the state. For example, an individual municipality cannot ban standard Styrofoam coffee cups of plastics bags used by an outlet chain across the state. A store can voluntarily offer alternatives, but it cannot be forced to use a unique cup, package or bag if they are going to continue doing business in a certain town. That would be a violation of state wide commerce laws. The bill clarifies that these are state wide initiatives and local government matters.