Letter to the Editor: New handgun legislation endangers Iowans

To the Editor:

State Representative Michael Bergan and State Senator Michael Klimesh voted their approval of HF 756 Omnibus Bill last week, loosening regulations on handgun sales in Iowa.

Bergan claims the legislation “will improve public safety by ensuring law-abiding citizens can protect themselves immediately, tightening the loopholes on private sales,” and “(t)his bill does not eliminate background checks” and “is actually likely to increase the amount and frequency of background checks on gun purchases.”

Those statements are both blatant falsehoods. Currently, no handgun owner may sell a handgun to another person, even as a private sale, unless the buyer can show to that seller a handgun purchase permit issued by his county sheriff, which means the sheriff has conducted a background check on that buyer. Currently, selling a handgun to someone who does not possess a permit is an aggravated misdemeanor, and a handgun seller who knows the buyer is forbidden from possessing a handgun but who sells it anyway commits a class D felony.

Under the terms of the new law, absolutely no background check for a private handgun sale is required. HF 756 states private sellers may not transfer a firearm to someone if they “know or reasonably should know that the other person is ineligible to possess dangerous weapons.” If a seller does sell a gun to someone that they know shouldn’t have one, that seller could be charged with a class D felony.

That language is unenforceable by law enforcement officials and virtually impossible to prove in a court of law. It opens the floodgates for sale of handguns to persons who have committed serious misdemeanor crimes and felonies.

HF 756 would allow me, for example, to post notice that I have “Handguns for Sale - No Background Checks Required.” I can sell one or several handguns to total strangers who have undergone absolutely no background checks. If one of those buyers uses that handgun in the commission of a crime (a murder, rape, assault, robbery or other offense), I can honestly state that I had no knowledge that the buyer was ineligible to possess dangerous weapons.

How is that making Iowans safer, Mr. Klimesh and Mr. Bergan, and how can that provision of the legislation increase background checks? Both of those contentions are outright lies.

Iowa is not immune from mass shootings and other firearm homicides committed by people with criminal records who have acquired handguns. Thanks to Mr. Klimesh and Mr. Bergan, a person with a previous criminal record would be able to acquire a handgun with ease.

I hope voters will remember the voting decisions of Mr. Bergan and Mr. Klimesh when they are next up for election.

Jerry Johnson
Decorah

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