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In 2021, Iowa eliminated its longstanding handgun permit requirement, including the comprehensive criminal history check that state law enforcement previously conducted on all handgun purchasers.1 Like long gun purchasers in Iowa, handgun purchasers are not required to get a permit, and are no longer required to pass a state background check conducted by county sheriffs and the Iowa department of public safety. See the Universal Background Checks in Iowa page and the Iowa Background Check Procedures page for further information.

After repealing its handgun permit-to-acquire law and the accompanying background check, Iowa retained some aspects of its previous law in the form of an optional permit that is available for people buying handguns from licensed firearm dealers (known as federal firearms licensees or FFLs).2 In order to purchase handguns from FFLs in Iowa, a buyer must generally either: (1) pass a federal background check, as is already required by federal law, (2) possess an Iowa concealed carry permit, or (3) obtain an optional permit to acquire a handgun, which is accompanied by a comprehensive criminal history check and is valid for five years.3

The above requirements do not apply to anyone buying a firearm from a private seller who is not a licensed dealer.4 Specifically, the 2021 legislation states that “It is the intent of this section to satisfy federal requirements of [federal law,] 18 u.s.c. § 922(t)(3) in order to acquire pistols or revolvers. In order to acquire a pistol or revolver from a federally licensed firearms dealer, an unlicensed person is required to have a valid permit to acquire or a valid permit to carry weapons issued in accordance with this chapter or the person must complete a satisfactory national instant criminal background check pursuant to 18 u.s.c. § 922(t).”5


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  1. See 2021 House File 756, enacted April 2, 2021.[]
  2. See Iowa Code §§ 724.17-20, as amended by House File 756 (2021).[]
  3. See Iowa Code §§ 724.15, 724,17, 724.20, as amended by 2021 House File 756.[]
  4. Iowa Code § 724.15, as amended by House File 756 (2021).[]
  5. Id.[]