As we reported last month, the GOP-controlled Iowa House had passed an omnibus firearms bill that would have done everything from legalizing silencers, created data privacy protections for firearms owners, and streamlined permitting and purchasing regulations. Procedural maneuvering in the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate, however, has stripped out pretty much everything from the bill — styled Senate File 427 — except the provision that legalizes silencers and mandates the chief law enforcement sign off on the NFA application as long as the applicant “is not prohibited by law from making or transferring a firearm suppressor” . . .
According to The Des Moines Register, the bill was apparently gutted when a question was raised about whether an amendment offered by Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat, was “germane.” According to Sodders, his amendment “would have addressed several areas the National Rifle Association, the Iowa Firearms Coalition, law enforcement groups and legislators have been working on since prior to the start of the 2015 session.” Senate President Pam Jochum (also a Democrat), ruled the amendment was not germane, which more or less left everything except the silencer provision on the cutting room floor.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, a Republican, criticized the Senate’s actions.
“I think what we passed today was a good step, but it clearly falls short of what Iowans expect us to do in protecting law-abiding citizens’ gun rights,” Dix said. “What I hear from Iowans more than anything is that they want their legal rights to carry permit to be protected and to be confidential. They believe, as I do, that they should be able to stand up and protect themselves and their families and their property, and to use their firearm without the fear of being sued or losing their assets.”
In my judgment, Dix is right. The silencer legalization, while certainly a good thing in and of itself, pales in comparision to the significance of the data privacy provision. Currently, licenses to carry a concealed firearm are considered public records in Iowa. As Senator Sodder himself remarked earlier, it’s nobody’s business if he has a gun in his house. It’s also nobody’s business whether or not I’m licensed to carry one.
Meanwhile the Iowa House has made the passage of the firearms bill a priority, according to the Iowa Firearms Coalition. The House Judiciary Committee took Senate File 427, and amended it to include…well, pretty much all of the stuff that the Senate took out of the original House Bill. The only exceptions included a concession to keep the requirement that Iowans obtain a “permit to acquire” for handgun purchases, and a change to the data privacy provision that was so dear to my heart.
Under the original House bill, no private requests for data concerning identities of persons who had an Iowa permit to carry would be fulfilled. Under the revised bill:
individuals (not businesses or media outlets) would be allowed to ask the sheriff if a particular person holds a valid Permit to Carry (no other information will be made available). The individual making the request must also give a valid reason for why they want to know, [and] provide the person in question’s name, and one of the following: date of birth, or phone number, or address…. [The] individual making the request must also leave their name and contact info for the sheriff’s office to keep on file….
If the permit holder in question starts being harassed in any way, they then have a right to go to the sheriff’s office and ask if anyone has been asking about their Permit to Carry. If they do that they will then be given the name and information of anyone that’s been asking about them and their permit.
While I certainly respect the efforts of organizations like the Iowa Firearms Coalition and politicians in the House who have been working to pass a good bill, I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable at this change. It’s better than what they have right now, I suppose, but why should my neighbors have the right to obtain this information about me from the government without my consent in the first place?
Legalizing silencers is a good step forward. But it would be nice to see the Iowa legislature passes a strong data privacy measure in the near future. As long as the government is going to insist on issuing licenses for the exercise of our civil rights, the least it could do is protect the privacy of its citizens while doing so.