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Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.

Iowa prohibits any person from knowing possessing or controlling, receiving, or transporting, or causing to be transported, a firearm if he or she has been convicted of a felony in a state or federal court or adjudicated delinquent on the basis of conduct that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult.1

Iowa also incorporates the federal laws prohibiting the possession of firearms or ammunition by anyone subject to a domestic violence protective order or anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.2 See Domestic Violence and Firearms in Iowa.

Pursuant to 2021 legislation repealing Iowa’s requirement that all handgun purchasers obtain a permit to acquire handguns, Iowa adopted several prohibitions that may be enforceable should a prospective purchaser apply for an optional permit to acquire handguns. Iowa now prohibits a person from acquiring a handgun (a pistol or revolver) if the person:

  • Is under age 21, except as required for military duty or while a peace officer, security guard or correctional officer;
  • Is prohibited by state or federal law, or by a court order, from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving a firearm;
  • Is prohibited by state law from carrying concealed handguns; or
  • Is intoxicated under the criteria set out in Iowa Code § 321J.2, subsection 1.3

When someone applies for an optional permit to acquire handguns, if the issuing officer determines that the applicant has been arrested or is subject to proceedings that would disqualify them from purchasing or possessing a handgun pursuant to the above criteria, the officer may immediately suspend the permit, which will then be reinstated or revoked depending on the disposition of the arrest or outcome of the proceedings.4

For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Iowa Background Check Procedures section.

For information about the reporting of mental health information for use in firearm purchaser background checks, see the Iowa Mental Health Reporting section.


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  1. Iowa Code § 724.26(1).[]
  2. Iowa Code §§ 236.2(2), (4), 236.5(1)(b), 724.26(2).[]
  3. See Iowa Code § 724.15(2), amended by 2021 Iowa House File 756.[]
  4. Iowa Code § 724.15(3), amended by 2021 Iowa House File 756.[]