Iowa: Your State Firearms Laws

(as of April 1994)

Please Note: In addition to state laws, the purchase, sale and (in certain circumstances) the possession and interstate transportation of firearms is regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended by the Firearm Owners' Protection Act. Also, cities and localities may have their own firearms ordinances in addition to federal and state laws. Details may be obtained by contacting local law enforcement authorities, and by consulting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm's State Laws and Published Ordinances--Firearms, available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.

Quick Reference Chart

                          Rifles and
                          Shotguns     Handguns
Permit to Purchase           No         Yes
Registration of Firearm      No         No
Licensing of Owner           No         No
Permit to Carry              No         Yes

State Constitutional Provision



No state permit is required to possess a rifle, shotgun, or handgun.

It is unlawful for any person who is convicted of a felony to subsequently possess, receive, or transport or cause to be transported a firearm or offensive weapon.


No permit is required to purchase of a rifle or shotgun.

A permit is required to purchase a handgun. The permit to purchase may be used to purchase more than one handgun. The permit is required for nondealer purchases as well as purchases from a dealer. A permit is not required for antique handguns, handguns not capable of being readily restored to a firing condition, a handgun designated a ``collector's item'' by the Commissioner of Public Safety, transfers between relatives within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, or by a holder of handgun carrying permit.

A permit to purchase a handgun is obtained by applying to the sheriff of any county. The application shall state the applicant's full name, Social Security number, residence, and age. The permit ``shall be issued to the applicant immediately upon completion of the application.'' A record check is conducted. The permit becomes valid three days after issuance and is good for one year. The whole process of obtaining the permit may be handled by mail. There is no fee for the permit.

Note: Some sheriffs have been requesting thumbprints on applications for purchase permits.

An annual permit to purchase a handgun shall not be issued to any person unless:

  1. The person is 21 and has never been convicted of a felony or serious assault, except for simple assault and/or harassment, and has no history of repeated acts of violence.
  2. The person is not addicted to the use of alcohol or a controlled substance.
  3. The person has never been adjudged mentally defective.
It is unlawful to sell, loan, give, or make available a rifle or shotgun or ammunition therefor to a person under 18. Caliber .22 rimfire ammunition is deemed to be rifle ammunition. However, a parent, guardian, spouse who is 18 or older, or another with the express consent of the minor's parent or guardian or spouse who is 18 or older may allow a minor to possess a rifle or shotgun or ammunition therefor which may be lawfully used.

It is unlawful to sell, loan, give, or make available a handgun or ammunition therefore to a person under 21. Exceptions to this prohibition are:

  1. A parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 or older, of a person less than 21 but at least 14 may allow the person to possess a handgun or ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose while under the direct supervision of the parent or guardian or spouse who is 21 or older, or while the person receives instruction in the proper use of handguns from an instructor 21 or older, with the consent of such parent, guardian or spouse.
  2. A person under 21 but at least 18 may possess a handgun and ammunition therefore while on military duty, while a peace officer, security guard, or correctional officer, when such duty requires the possession of such a weapon or while the person receives instruction in the proper use of a handgun from an instructor who is 21 or older.


It is unlawful if a person ``goes armed'' with a handgun or any loaded firearm of any kind within the limits of any city, whether concealed or not. It is also unlawful to go armed with a handgun concealed on or about one's person or to knowingly carry or transport a handgun in a vehicle.

Exceptions to the above prohibition are:

  1. Carrying in a dwelling, place of business, or on land owned or possessed by the person.
  2. Peace officers, correctional officers, members of the armed forces, or persons in the service of the United States when carrying weapons in connection with their duties.
  3. Carrying an unloaded handgun or other firearm for any lawful purpose inside a closed and fastened container or securely wrapped package which is too large to be concealed on the person.
  4. Carrying or transporting an unloaded handgun in any vehicle inside a cargo or luggage compartment where the handgun will not be readily accessible to any person riding in the vehicle or common carrier.
  5. Carrying openly while engaged in target practice on a range designed for that purpose or while actually engaged in lawful hunting.
  6. Possessors of a valid permit to carry a handgun whose conduct is within the limits of that permit.
Rifles and shotguns carried in vehicles must be unloaded in the chamber and magazine and must be either encased or broken down.

Permit To Carry

It is unlawful for a person to carry any dangerous weapon on or about his person without a permit. Permits to carry a weapon come in two forms--- professional and nonprofessional. Residents make application to the local sheriff, nonresidents make application to the Commissioner of Public Safety. Permits are valid for 12 months; the fee is $10.00. Renewal and duplicate permits are $5.00. ``The issuance of the permit shall be by and at the discretion of the sheriff or commissioner [of Public Safety].''

Professional permits are issued to guards, bank messengers, peace officers, or other persons whose job ``reasonably justifies that person going armed.'' The permit holder may ``go armed anywhere in the state, only while engaged in such employment, and while going to and from the place of such employment.'' A permit issued to a peace officer authorizes him to go armed anywhere in the state at all times.

A nonprofessional permit ``may be issued'' to a person ``who can reasonably justify his or her going armed.'' Any restrictions are listed on the permit. To obtain a professional or nonprofessional permit, an applicant must be: at least 18 and have never been convicted of a felony, not addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance, and have no history of repeated acts of violence.

The issuing officer ``reasonably determines that the applicant does not constitute a danger to any person,'' and has never been convicted of any felonies or serious assaults except for simple assault and/or harassment.

The application contains the applicant's name, Social Security number (optional), residence, age and information on any felony convictions, addiction to alcohol or a controlled substance, or ``any history of mental illness or repeated acts of violence.'' New applicants are fingerprinted by some licensing authorities. The applicant must successfully complete a firearms instruction course which includes a proficiency test with a handgun. The training program must be approved by the Commissioner of Public Safety, and the Commissioner or county sheriff may conduct it or may contract with a private organization or use the services of other agencies, or may use a combination of the two, to provide such training. The fee is currently $20.00.

Police officers trained at a police academy need not take the training program. The training requirements ``may be waived for renewal permits.''

Antiques and Replicas

An antique firearm is ``any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898. An antique firearm also means a replica of a firearm so described if the replica is not designed or redesigned for using conventional rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition or if the replica uses fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.

Antique and replica firearms are exempt from the permit to purchase requirement. The same laws on carrying that apply to modern firearms apply to antique and replica firearms.

Machine Guns

``A machine gun is a firearm which shoots or is designed to shoot more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.''

State law prohibits the possession of machine guns by private parties. Exceptions are dealers who sell to peace officers or the armed forces, and any firm lawfulfully engaged in improvement, invention, or manufacture of firearms.


Persons found guilty of a forcible felony and who represented that he or she was in the immediate possession or control of a firearm, displayed a firearm in a threatening manner, or were armed with a firearm, shall serve a minimum of five years of the sentence imposed by law and shall not be eligible for parole until such minimum sentence has been served.

A state statute prohibits a unit of local government to regulate the ownership, possession, transfer, transportation, registration, or licensing of firearms otherwise lawful under state law.

Loaded firearms must be secured from minors under 14.

It is unlawful to possess a bullet that explodes or a shotshell or cartridge intended to project a flame or fireball to simulate a flamethrower.

Sources: West's Iowa Code Annotated Sections 110.35, 110.36, and 724.1 to 724.7.

Caution: State firearms laws are subject to frequent change. The above summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law. To determine the applicability of these laws to specific situations which you may encounter, you are strongly urged to consult a local attorney.

                     Compiled by:
         NRA Institute for Legislative Action
                 11250 Waples Mill Road
                   Fairfax, VA 22030

   (c)  1994, NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

NS 01110                               Rev. 4/94 5M