The Iowa Permit-to-Purchase – The Seeds of Gun Registration

The Iowa Permit-to-Purchase – The Seeds of Gun Registration
By Aaron Dorr

Iowa Gun Owners
Iowa Gun Owners

Iowa – -( promoting and working to pass the REAL Right-to-Carry bill in the upcoming session, Iowa Gun Owners is also working on repealing Iowa’s permit-to-purchase laws as well.

The permit-to-purchase law requires you to seek approval from the government, in the form of a government issued card, before you can purchase a handgun for self-defense. The criteria for this permit are similar to the criteria for a permit-to-carry: you can not be a felon, can not be addicted to drugs or alcohol, you can’t have a history of acts of violence, etc. Should you be approved for the permit, it is good for a period of one year.

While many assume that obtaining a permit-to-purchase is normal and just a part of doing business, you should know that 36 other states DO NOT have this tyrannical requirement.

That’s right – Iowa is one of only a handful of states that require people to get a permit to purchase handguns for self-defense. Delaware, Maryland, and New Hampshire are just some of the states that do NOT require law abiding citizens to get this type of permit.

The argument most commonly offered in defense of this permit goes something like this: this permit is needed to ensure that criminals and the mentally deranged don’t have access to firearms. Gun control advocates usually toss in examples of a school or church shooting at this point to silence opposition. This argument is so emotionally charged that sometimes even gun owners accept this at face value.

However, federal law already prohibits felons, fugitives from justice, illegal aliens, those addicted to narcotics, and those considered mentally deranged from owning firearms. There is no need for additional state language.

More to the point, as everyone already knows, criminals and the mentally deranged don’t buy weapons from a gun dealer or at a gun show anyway. They steal them or buy them from other criminals. In fact, a Justice Department study concluded that over 90% of criminals who use handguns in the commission of their crimes obtained the gun from some source other than a licensed dealer.1

So this argument is obviously wrong.

But worse than that, this argument gets innocent people killed. Sensational? Hardly. By requiring law abiding citizens to go through all the hassle and expense of obtaining a permit to buy a weapon for self-defense, the government ensures that many people just won’t go through the headache. How many elderly people or young single women (the kind of people who most need to be able to defend themselves) find this process intimidating? Many, I know, because I talk to them often. So these people, who want to have the means of self-defense, are being denied this option due to bureaucratic red tape.

And again, don’t forget that 36 other states don’t require a permit to purchase. The crime rates in those states are not higher than states that do require this permit – in many cases the crime rates in those states are lower! If this permit could somehow ensure public safety than all those states without a permit to purchase should have drastically higher levels of violent crime.

In fact, the opposite is true. California, Washington D.C., and Illinois all have permits-to-purchase amongst other anti-gun regulations. But according to the FBI’s ‘Uniform Crime Reports’, released in September of 2008 and based on 2007 data, Los Angeles had over 380 homicides, Washington D.C. had over 155 homicides and Chicago had over 440 homicides!

Clearly these permits are not stopping crime at all.

So if a permit to purchase does nothing to reduce crime what does it accomplish? In a word: registration. (The information below comes from Gun Owners of America located at

In 1994 the Justice Department gave a grant to the city of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University to create a sophisticated national gun registry using data compiled from states’ background check programs. This attempt at registration was subsequently defeated in the courts.2

In 1996, computer software distributed by the Justice Department allowed police officials to easily (and unlawfully) register the names and addresses of gun buyers. This software — known as FIST — also kept information such as the type of gun purchased, the make, model and caliber, the date of purchase, etc.3

In 1998, despite prohibitions in federal law, the FBI announced that it would begin keeping gun buyer’s names for six months. FBI had originally wanted to keep the names for 18 months, but reduced the time period after groups like Gun Owners of America strongly challenged the legality of their actions. GOA submitted a formal protest to the FBI, calling their attempt at registration both “unlawful” and “unconstitutional.”4

Of course, we can use a mid-western example as well. The government in Illinois has gone so far down this road of regulation that our friends in Illinois now can’t even own a handgun or long gun without first obtaining a government issued firearms owner identification (FOID) card!

That’s right, to even own a hunting shotgun in Illinois you must first be approved by the state. As bad as that is, it gets worse. You see, in Illinois, to even buy a single round of ammunition you need to possess a FOID card – otherwise a dealer can not sell ammunition to you. Further, if you move into the state already owning weapons, you have a limited amount of time before those guns too must be registered with the government.

Of course, we’ve not even mentioned the idea of concealed carry in Illinois, which is totally prohibited.

And again, as mentioned above, despite all these onerous gun laws Chicago had over 440 homicides in 2007! This does not count rape, aggravated assault, robberies and other types of violent crime.

Just think how many of those innocent victims would have been able to defend themselves had they been carrying weapons for self-defense.

This is what will happen in Iowa if we don’t start to fight back. If the state of Iowa can tell you when you are eligible to buy guns, carry guns, and shoot guns (all areas that they currently regulate) then it’s a short hop to the kind of total registration that gun owners in Illinois deal with.

So this session, as Iowa Gun Owners begins to promote a bill repealing the permit to purchase law in Iowa, we hope that you will do your part. Email and call your elected officials, come down to the capitol on an Iowa Gun Owners lobby day, donate to Iowa Gun Owners via our website, and tell your family and friends about us.

The time to act is now. Our rights are under attack.


  1. Department of Justice, “Survey of Incarcerated Felons,” p. 36.
  2. Bureau of Justice Assistance, Grant Manager’s Memorandum, Pt. 1: Project Summary (September 30, 1994), Project Number: 94-DD-CX-0166.
  3. Copy of “FIST” (Firearms Inquiry Statistical Tracking) software at GOA headquarters, Springfield, VA. See also Pennsylvania Sportsmen’s News (Oct./Nov. 1996). The default in the “FIST” computer software is for the police officials to indefinitely retain the information on gun owners-despite the fact that the Brady law only allows officials to retain this data for 20 days.
  4. FBI’s Final Rule printed in the Federal Register (October 30, 1998) at 58311. After the FBI submitted its proposed regulations on June 4, 1998, Gun Owners of America submitted written comments (in September of 1988) to challenge the FBI’s regulations.

Aaron Dorr is the Executive Director of Iowa Gun Owners, a non-profit organization in Iowa dedicated to overturning Iowa’s abusive laws when it comes to the purchasing, carrying, and using firearms for self-defense. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Iowa Gun Owners (IGO) was formed in January of 2009 to combat the oppressive gun laws in the State of Iowa. IGO does not believe that you, as a law abiding citizen, should have to beg permission from the government to be able to defend yourself and your family. That’s why we are working so hard to get a Vermont/Alaska style carry law passed in Iowa. In these states, unless you are a convicted felon or otherwise barred from possessing weapons, you don’t need a permit to carry a gun for self-defense! Join us now!

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D. Rupe

I live in Minnesota, and this state is the same way. I was born and raised in Iowa, now I read about P2P,and I only thought it was in Illinois and Minnesota. What’s happening to our 2nd Addmendmet rights that I helped to preserve while in the military.

Wild Bill

@D. Rupe, the article was from Nov 2009. So what ever happened to Iowa’s permit to purchase legislative attempt?

charles Ruff

more money for the government to blow

john adams

I live in Iowa. I have a permit to carry and purchased a sidearm from a licensed dealer. Are you telling me that the Government bastards know that information? Is my sidearm registered? If that’s the case I feel myself getting rid of it and getting another one.

Terrianna jones

I live in iowa


New Jersey requires a permit to purchase (P2P) which is only good for 90 days.
The whole process SUCKS and is unconstitutional. If you don’t want to end up as New Jersey, get rid of Iowa’s P2P…