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Preemption Statute

Iowa Code section 724.28 prohibits political subdivisions (defined to mean cities, counties and townships) from

“regulating the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, modification, registration, or licensing of firearms, firearms attachments, or other weapons when the ownership, possession, transfer, or transportation, or modification is otherwise lawful under the laws of this state. An ordinance regulating firearms, firearms attachments, or other weapons in violation of this section existing on or after April 5, 1990, is void.”

Additional subsections added in 2020 state:

“A political subdivision of the state may restrict the carrying, possession, or transportation of firearms or other dangerous weapons in the buildings or physical structures located on property under the political subdivision’s control if adequate arrangements are made by the political subdivision to screen persons for firearms or other dangerous weapons and the political subdivision provides armed security personnel…”

“A political subdivision of the state shall not enact an ordinance, motion, resolution, policy, or amendment regulating the storage of weapons or ammunition.”

The 2020 law also placed new limits on the zoning requirements that local governments can impose on shooting ranges. 1

Interpretation

As of the date this page was last updated, Giffords Law Center is not aware of any cases examining the scope of section 724.28.

In 2003, the Iowa Attorney General opined that section 724.28 does not restrain local governments from exercising home rule power to restrict the possession of firearms in buildings owned or directly controlled by the local government. 2 A law enacted in 2020 created new requirements for political subdivisions that slightly contradict the Attorney General’s opinion. 3

The Attorney General’s opinion was issued in response to a state legislator’s question regarding the validity of a West Burlington, Iowa ordinance restricting possession of firearms by non-law enforcement or military personnel within municipal buildings. After engaging in a review of Iowa law regarding the home rule of municipalities, the Attorney General stated that section 724.28 (as it was in 2003) does not preempt municipalities or counties from “enacting and enforcing limitations upon the possession of weapons which are narrowly limited to buildings owned or directly controlled by the political subdivision.”4

Because section 724.28 does not limit the ability of a property owner to manage property owned or directly controlled by her or him, and Iowa law does not preclude a private business owner from prohibiting persons from bringing concealed weapons onto the owner’s business premises, the Attorney General found that section 724.28 (as it was in 2003) must be interpreted consistently to permit a municipality to prohibit persons from bringing concealed weapons onto premises owned or directly controlled by the municipality.5 Thus, the city could enforce its ordinance against concealed weapons permit holders as well under section 724.4.

The Attorney General cautioned, however, that the authority of a municipality to regulate weapons is narrowly limited to property owned or directly controlled by the municipality.6 In addition, the Attorney General warned that Iowa courts would likely find a local ordinance imposing a jurisdiction-wide restriction upon the possession or transportation of a weapon preempted by section 724.28.7

Finally, the Attorney General noted that section 724.28 does not affect the authority of Iowa’s judicial branch to install metal detectors or other devices and restrict the possession of weapons in county courthouses under the judiciary’s inherent power to ensure that state courts function safely and efficiently, nor does section 724.28 address the authority of state government to prohibit the possession of weapons in state-owned or controlled buildings.8

The 2020 law places some limits on the ability of local jurisdictions to prohibit guns in buildings under their jurisdiction. The new law only allows jurisdictions to prohibit guns if “adequate arrangements are made … to screen persons for firearms … and the political division provides armed security personnel.”

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  1. Iowa Code §§ 335.26; 141.26.[]
  2. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6.[]
  3. See 2020 IA HB 2502.[]
  4. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *2.[]
  5. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *18.[]
  6. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *18-*19.[]
  7. Id.[]
  8. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *7, n2.[]