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Iowa Gun Control Laws

As the national debate regarding gun control and the rights of gun owners shows no signs of cooling down any time soon, states must strike their own balance in their gun laws and regulations. State legislators often desire to respond to incidences of gun violence, but must assess what role the law can play to improve gun safety. 

Although the Second Amendment permits individuals to keep and bear arms, states are permitted to outlaw certain weapons and accessories. They can also establish licenses and permits for the purchase of firearms and the carrying of concealed firearms in public.

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (as amended) sets forth a baseline of federal laws related to interstate commerce in firearms. It includes a licensing and regulation scheme for those who manufacture, produce, and sell guns. Among other things, federal law prohibits the possession or ownership of firearms by persons with felony convictions, misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, impairment due to mental illness, or substance abuse. 

Federal firearms dealers must also conduct a background check on all gun purchases through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Iowa Gun Laws

In 2021, Iowa enacted new laws that included a "permitless carry" law and made the permit application to acquire a firearm optional. As a result, gun sales occurring between private individuals no longer require a background check. The permitless carry law allows otherwise law-abiding individuals to carry a loaded firearm on their person, either open or concealed, in public. 

Iowa law still provides certain public place exceptions where the presence of a firearm is illegal. Under state law and regulations, this includes:

  • Within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a public or private elementary or secondary school or park (weapons-free zones)
  • School buses
  • Casinos

Under federal law, individuals cannot bring firearms to these locations:

  • Post offices and their parking lots
  • Federal facilities
  • IRS offices
  • Federal courthouses
  • Airports (secure areas)
  • Ranger stations
  • Federal buildings in federal parks

The status of gun bans in sensitive areas has become volatile since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022). 

In that case, the Court, by a 6-3 vote, ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to carry arms for purposes such as self-defense in public. It overturned a 1911 law that gave state authorities discretion in whether to issue concealed carry permits if an applicant showed a special need. 

The Court held that regulations that burden the individual right to bear arms must be reviewed case by case. The government must show that the regulation in question is consistent with the traditional, historical firearms regulation in the U.S. In a recent Florida case, a federal judge dismissed criminal charges against a postal worker who brought a concealed firearm to work. She held the federal law banning firearms in federal buildings as applied in the case before her was unconstitutional under Bruen.

Iowans also passed a state constitutional amendment in 2022. It provides:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety continues to oversee a permitting process in the state to aid in reciprocity with other states. An individual may complete a permit application available at the sheriff's office of their county of residence. Iowa permits include:

  • Permit to acquire a pistol or revolver
  • Nonprofessional carry weapons permit
  • Professional carry weapons permit

Iowans can purchase long guns (rifles and shotguns) once they are 18 years old. To purchase or possess a handgun (pistol or revolver) or get a carry weapons permit, a resident must be 21 years old. Certain exceptions apply for persons 18-20 who are on duty as a peace officer, security guard, correctional officer, or member of the military. 

Nonprofessional carry permit applicants must also show they have met state-issued training requirements. This may include completion of a training course through the National Rifle Association (NRA) or other organized approved by the Department of Public Safety. Professional carry permits are issued to various law enforcement officers, those engaged in private investigative work, or those who work as security guards. These are all professions that justify the person being armed.

While the Hawkeye State imposes no waiting period for gun purchases, buyers must be of legal age to purchase. They must not fall under legal prohibitions for possession such as having a felony conviction. Although Iowa does not ban assault weapons, some firearms remain illegal. For example, in Iowa, machine guns are illegal, with limited exceptions for law enforcement and the military. 

Possession of firearm suppressors (silencers), short-barreled shotguns, or short-barreled rifles is illegal if not compliant with federal law.

The chart below lists the details of Iowa's gun control statutes.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

Illegal Arms

The following firearms are illegal to own in Iowa unless authorized under federal law:

  • Machine guns
  • Short-barreled rifles or shotguns
  • Any weapon other than a shotgun or muzzle-loading rifle, cannon, pistol, revolver, or musket, which fires or can be made to fire a projectile by the explosion of a propellant charge which has a barrel of more than six-tenths of an inch in diameter
  • Any bullet containing any explosive mixture capable of exploding upon impact
  • Suppressors (silencers)

Waiting Period

There is no waiting period to purchase a firearm in Iowa.

Who May Not Own

You are prohibited from owning a firearm if you:

  • Have a felony conviction
  • Are an adjudicated delinquent for a crime that would be a felony if it was committed by an adult
  • Handgun: Are under 21 years old (with exceptions)
  • Have a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or are subject to a domestic violence protective order

License Required?

A license is not required to purchase or own a firearm.

Concealed Carry License Required?

A concealed carry license is not required if a person is not otherwise disqualified under state or federal law

Open Carried Allowed?

A license for open carry is not required if a person is not otherwise disqualified under state or federal law. Open carry is allowed, except for open carry of a pistol or revolver in the state capitol building and grounds or any other prohibited locations.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

You can get a nonprofessional permit to carry weapons if:

  • You are 21 years of age or older
  • You complete and sign an application form and display a proper identification card such as a driver's license
  • There is no probable cause that you will likely use the weapon unlawfully to endanger yourself or others
  • You are not addicted to alcohol
  • You do not have a felony conviction
  • You have not been convicted of any aggravated misdemeanor or serious misdemeanor under Chapter 708 (Assault) in the last three years
  • You complete an approved firearm safety training
  • You are not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm under Iowa or federal laws

Iowa also recognizes licenses issued by other states.

Machine Gun Laws

You are not allowed to own a machine gun in Iowa.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • Unauthorized possession of an offensive weapon, suppressor, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle is a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $10,245; or both
  • Possession of a firearm by a person with a felony or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or while under a domestic violence protective order is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $10,245; or both.
  • Possession of a loaded firearm by a minor is a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail; a fine of up to $2,560; or both
  • Making a false statement of material fact on an application for a permit to carry weapons is a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $10,245; or both

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

Carrying a firearm on or near school grounds is a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $10,245; or both

Red Flag Law?

No.

Universal Background Checks?

No.

Stand Your Ground Law?

Yes. Iowa has a Stand Your Ground law. A person who is not engaged in illegal activity has no duty to retreat from any place where they are lawfully present before using reasonable force (which may include deadly force) in response to an assault.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

Iowa Gun Control Laws: Related Resources

Further Questions About Iowa Gun Control Laws? Contact a Lawyer

Gun ownership and use is a serious matter. If you or someone you know has been injured in a gun incident, you may have recourse against the manufacturer, distributor, or owner of the gun. You can also consult with an Iowa attorney if you need legal advice regarding a gun charge or to better understand your rights and responsibilities as a gun owner.

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