1. Universal Background Checks
Gun violence is something that continues to trouble the United States. 38,000 Americans die from gun violence every year and an average of 100 people die every day. This is due in part to the fact that prohibited purchasers have been able to arm themselves simply because the law didn’t require a background check. We can look to Wisconsin for a recent example of this: a background check requirement for unlicensed sales could have saved a woman who was shot and killed in January 2018 in Appleton, Wisconsin by her husband, who was able to purchase the firearm from a seller he met online, despite his prohibiting felony conviction. March For Our Lives Iowa recommends a mandatory background check on all sales and transfers of firearms in Iowa.
Loopholes and Unrestricted Firearm Sales
Currently, private sales of firearms are often unrestricted, a 2017 study shows 22% of firearm owners who obtained their most recent firearm within the previous two years reported doing so without a background check. Under current laws, background checks are not required on private/unlicensed sales and transfers. Our federal firearm laws allow people to purchase firearms without passing a background check. Under current law, unlicensed sellers can transfer firearms without having to run any background check whatsoever. Because of this, people who are subject to domestic violence convictions or court orders, people who have been convicted of violent crimes, and people ineligible to possess firearms for mental health reasons can easily purchase firearms from unlicensed sellers with no background check in Iowa. In fact, an estimated 22% of US gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check which translates to millions of Americans acquiring millions of guns, no questions asked, each year. Specifically, long-gun transfers by private sellers are not subject to background checks in Iowa. This is extremely problematic as from 2007 to 2016, at least 43 percent of Iowa’s domestic violence firearm homicides of women were committed with long-guns. What is even more daunting is the fact that around 80% of all firearms acquired for criminal purposes are obtained through transfers from unlicensed sellers, and 96% of inmates convicted of firearm offenses who were already prohibited from possessing a firearm at the time of the offense obtained their weapon from an unlicensed seller.
Universal Background Check System
The system of universal background checks entails that almost all types of firearms transactions would be recorded and the information about the buyer be checked out through the NICS. Under the current system, the law requires federally licensed firearms dealers, but not private sellers, to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to the sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. Iowa is a partial point of contact state for NICS. County sheriffs and the Iowa Department of Public Safety (IDPS) serve as partial state points of contact for background checks on prospective handgun purchasers, with county sheriffs conducting checks on applicants for five-year permits to acquire a handgun or permits to a carry concealed handgun, and the IDPS conducting handgun-related checks for state employees and non-residents.
Evidence of Effectiveness
Time and time again universal background checks have proven their effectiveness. First, we find that state gun laws requiring universal background checks for all firearm sales resulted in homicide rates 15% lower than states without such laws. Laws prohibiting the possession of firearms by people who have been convicted of a violent crime were associated with an 18% reduction in homicide rates. As soon as these laws are implemented there is a dramatic decrease in homicide rates, thus saving lives. In contrast, the average firearm homicide rate in states without background checks is 58% higher than the average in states with background-check laws in place. A 2017 report from the U.S. Justice Department found that nearly 197 million applications for firearm transfers or permits have been run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Of those checks run between 1994 and 2015, more than 3 million applications — 1.5% — were denied, mainly due to criminal convictions. Since 1998 in Iowa, nearly 14,000 firearm sales to prohibited purchasers have been denied, including nearly 6,000 illegal sales to convicted felons and over 3,000 illegal sales to prohibited domestic abusers. Even under the current laws, universal background checks have proven their effectiveness and saved numerous lives. It is empirically clear that requiring universal background checks on all sales and transfers will only save more lives.
Constitutionality and Viability
The Supreme Court has found that background checks do not violate the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court ruled that, “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Additionally, more than 90% of the American public supports background checks for all firearm sales.
March For Our Lives Iowa recommends that Iowa expand their required background checks to all firearms. This would entail that all transfers and sales of firearms would have to surpass background checks regardless of the base. It would be structured the same way as the current required background checks of handguns, but would entail a wider scope to include mandatory background checks on long-guns.
2. Mandatory Waiting Periods
Firearms-related violence, specifically suicide, is an increasingly troubling issue for the state of Iowa. Having only grown in recent years, the firearm death rate by suicide has been a pinpoint of concern for many. Worries have only been heightened as the United States has seen a surge in suicide numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that number is only expected to grow as we continue on. As we deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19 as seen in 2020, the suicide rate in Iowa may likely increase once again. Near instantaneous access to firearms without proper waiting periods put many at risk by allowing for impulsive acts of gun violence. In order to provide a cool-off period after purchase of a firearm and to reduce the firearm death rate, March For Our Lives Iowa recommends implementing a 10-day waiting period for all firearm purchases in Iowa.
Firearm Deaths in Iowa
Iowa faces an increasing number of deaths by firearms. As of 2020, Iowa saw a firearm death rate of 8.4 per 100,000 total population. This rate has increased by 38% from 2009 to 2018, with most of these being contributed to suicide. Suicides make up 61% of gun deaths nationally. This percentage pales in comparison to Iowa’s 79% of all firearm deaths being attributed to suicide.
Mandatory Waiting Period Laws
Mandatory waiting period laws require a certain number of days to elapse between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer may take possession of that firearm. Additionally, waiting periods can also give law enforcement agencies additional time to complete background checks that sometimes cannot be completed within the three-day window provided by the federal law. Plainly put, these laws create a buffer between the time of firearm purchase and firearm acquisition. Presently, there is no federal law requiring a waiting period of any sort. A dealer may transfer a firearm to a prospective purchaser as soon as he or she passes a background check. If the Federal Bureau of Investigation is unable to complete a background check within three business days, the dealer may complete the transfer by default. Accordingly, persons purchasing firearms from private sellers may take immediate possession of their weapons, unless state or local law provides otherwise. Ten states, along with the District of Columbia, have instituted a waiting period that pertains to some type of firearm. This waiting period varies in length and type between states. Five states, along with the District of Columbia, have imposed waiting period laws for all firearm purchases ranging between three and fourteen days. Two states require waiting periods for certain classes of weapons. Three states, including Iowa, require waiting periods for handguns only. The waiting periods for all of these states range between three and 14 days.
Evidence of Effectiveness
The immediate purchase and acquisition of a firearm allows people to act on temporary emotions and impulses, which can increase the risk of both firearm suicide and firearm homicide. Suicide attempts are often impulsive, singular episodes that involve little planning. Many studies suggest that most suicide survivors contemplated their actions for only a brief period of time — often less than 24 hours — before making a suicide attempt. Similarly, studies suggest that some of the factors that incite violence against others, such as anger and rage, can be short-lived. Waiting period laws, which create a buffer between the time of firearm purchase and firearm acquisition, can help to prevent impulsive acts of firearm violence. Waiting period laws help to prevent firearm suicides and firearm homicides. According to one estimation, waiting period laws may reduce firearm suicide rates by 7-11%. Waiting period laws also appear to reduce gun homicide rates. One study found that waiting period laws that delay the purchase of firearms by even a few days can reduce gun homicides by roughly 17%.
Constitutionality and Viability
The Constitutionality of mandatory waiting period laws has also been proven in court. In Silvester v. Harris (2016), the Ninth Circuit entered judgement in favor of Kamala Harris, defendant and Attorney General of the State of California, stating that the law does not violate plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights because the ten-day wait is a reasonable precaution for the purchase of a second or third weapon, as well as for a first purchase. Now Vice President elect, Harris and President-elect Joe Biden have shown an outpouring of support for gun policy that extends waiting periods. In 1993, Biden shepherded through Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act through Congress to establish the background check system that has since kept more than three million firearms out of dangerous hands. The pair has voiced their support for closing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Their support of this policy also extends to the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which lengthens the timeline from three to 10 business days.
March For Our Lives Iowa recommends a 10-day mandatory waiting period for all firearms purchased in a private transaction or through a federally licensed firearms dealer within the state of Iowa. This is contingent upon two statements.
1.) The 10-day waiting period begins only once the background check process has been completed.
2.) Possession of a permit to carry firearms in public does not exempt those purchasing a firearm from the waiting period.
Proceedings shall be modeled off of the District of Columbia’s existing policy. No seller shall deliver a firearm to the purchaser thereof until 10-days shall have elapsed from the date of the purchase thereof, except in the case of sales to marshals, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens or their deputies, policemen, or other duly appointed law enforcement officers. At the time of purchase, the purchaser shall sign in duplicate and deliver to the seller a statement containing his or her full name, address, occupation, date and place of birth, the date of purchase, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the firearm and a statement that the purchaser is not forbidden by law to possess a firearm. The seller shall, within six hours after purchase, sign and attach his or her address and deliver one copy to such person or persons as the Chief of Police may designate, and shall retain the other copy for six years. No machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack shall be sold to any person other than the persons designated by law as entitled to possess the same, and then only after permission to make such sale has been obtained from the Chief of Police.
3. Mandatory Reporting of Lost or Stolen Firearms
Among other pressing firearm issues in Iowa, the state faces growing concerns about firearm trafficking. Ranging from a period of 2012 to 2015, research from the Center for American Progress found that approximately 6,444 firearms were stolen in Iowa. Furthermore, firearms stolen from Iowa are frequently trafficked across state lines for use in violent crime. Regardless of the final location, these stolen firearms prove to be a risk to public safety. Almost 2,700 crime guns found across state lines from 2010 to 2016 were originally purchased in Iowa. This poses a threat not only to Iowans, but residents of states surrounding it.
Firearms are most safe when in the hands of the intended purchaser. When missing firearms go unreported, Iowa has no strategy in obtaining the information to track them down. Because Iowa has no strategy for obtaining information, an innocent person may be traced back to a crime committed with a stolen gun if they didn’t report their gun stolen. In order to prevent legally-purchased firearms from falling in the wrong hands and protect the safety of Iowans and bordering states alike, March For Our Lives Iowa recommends the implementation of the mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms to local law enforcement.
Mandatory Reporting Laws
Stolen firearms pose a public safety risk to Iowans because criminals possess those firearms instead of the lawful owners. Mandatory Reporting laws serve a central purpose: notify law enforcement of missing and stolen firearms. Ranging from immediate reporting to seven-day reporting, these laws require one to contact local law enforcement for any arms deemed lost or stolen. Reporting this information allows law enforcement to work proactively once notified of a situation regarding firearm theft; it ensures that gun owners are held accountable for their weapons. Furthermore, gun traffickers presently claim that illegally sold firearms have been stolen from them to avoid responsibility for the firearms. The passage of Mandatory Reporting in Iowa would ensure legal methods are in place to hold traffickers accountable and responsible for such crimes.
Currently, no federal law exists to mandate reporting of lost and stolen firearms. Giffords Law Center states that “[f]rom 2006 to 2016, the number of guns reported stolen from individuals increased by approximately 60%”. However, eleven states along with the District of Columbia have taken initiative in passing varied versions of this legislation. States such as Ohio and Massachusetts dictate that one must report a lost or stolen firearm “forthwith” or immediately; some states provide a longer, more lenient period. While states such as Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New York require reporting within 24 hours, Delaware allows for a longer, seven-day grace period. A plethora of states have taken the first step in mandating reporting to reduce firearm trafficking; Iowa is not one of them.
Evidence of Effectiveness
A 2010 report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns highlights the success of these laws, regardless of variation. Seven states, as well as the District of Columbia, had such laws at the time of the report’s release. The report dictated that the average export rate for firearms in those states with mandatory reporting laws was 6.2 guns per 100,000 residents. However, those in states without such laws found themselves with much higher export rates. The average export rate was 16.1 guns per 100,000 residents in the 43 states without mandatory reporting laws. Mandatory Reporting laws contribute to lower rates of firearm export, thus meaning reduced firearm trafficking. Therefore, Mandatory Reporting laws help to reduce the number of firearms being used for violent crimes, and contribute to the overall safety of the public.
Constitutionality and Viability
Such legislation has made its way to the floor of the Iowa State Legislature in years prior. In early 2021, Representative Staed, along with Representatives Hunter, Anderson, Kurth, and Mascher introduced a bill to mandate reporting of lost/stolen firearms, among other things. Entitled “House File 253,” this legislation ended in committee. However, firearm trafficking has only increased in the status quo, making mandatory reporting legislation all the more relevant and necessary.
Furthermore, this recommended legislation aligns with Iowa Code. Section 903.1 of the code states that “a simple misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of $65 to $625, or both.” March For Our Lives Iowa recommends a fine of $250 to ensure that failure to report will be classified as a simple misdemeanor, thus staying within the bounds of Iowa Code.
March for Our Lives Iowa recommends the passage of a bill mandating that gun owners are to report stolen or lost firearms to local law enforcement in a timely manner. Those failing to report missing firearms within 72 hours of discovering the firearm has been stolen/lost shall be classified as a simple misdemeanor and punished with a scheduled $250 fine.
Legislative Agenda 2021
Legislative Agenda 2022