Significant changes to the regulation of guns in Iowa were enacted by the legislature this session. Major reforms were made to the purchasing, carrying, and use of firearms – specifically handguns.

House File 517 makes the permit to buy handguns valid for five years. Under current law, the permit is valid for just one year. This change removes the annual background check required for these permits and instead only requires a background check every five years when the permit is renewed. The bill does allow local law enforcement to do spot background checks of permit holders, but the background check must be initiated by local law enforcement and is not automatic.

The bill also makes substantial changes to the justified use of reasonable and deadly force. The bill removes the requirement to retreat before using deadly force as long as a person is not engaged in an illegal activity. The bill also allows a person to be wrong in the estimation of danger or force necessary as long as there was a reasonable basis for the person’s belief and the person acts reasonably.

Many local officials have expressed concern with the bill because it also creates a process that prevents a city council and county supervisor board from restricting weapons in local government buildings. Concealed carrying of firearms is allowed in the Capitol building under the bill as well.

Other changes in the bill include allowing the possession of short-barreled shotguns and rifles, making all personal information on firearms permits confidential, allowing anyone under the age of 21 to possesses a pistol or revolver with adult supervision, preventing officials from keeping weapons off the street in a time of public emergency such as a riot, and expanding who can carry a concealed weapon in K-12 schools.

The final version passed the House 57-36 and was signed by the Governor. Most of the changes will take effect July 1 of this year.