Iowa has enacted a broad preemption statute. Iowa Code § 724.28 prohibits political subdivisions (including cities, counties and townships) from regulating the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, registration, or licensing of firearms when otherwise lawful under state law. The statute also declares void any ordinance existing on or after April 5, 1990 regulating firearms in violation of the statute.

While there are no cases examining the scope of section 724.28, the Iowa Attorney General has 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.1

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 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.”2

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 must be interpreted consistently to permit a municipality to prohibit persons from bringing concealed weapons onto premises owned or directly controlled by the municipality.3 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.4 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 724.28.5

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 court houses 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.6

Notes
  1. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6. ⤴︎
  2. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *2. ⤴︎
  3. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *18. ⤴︎
  4. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *18-*19. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 03-4-1 (2003), 2003 Iowa AG LEXIS 6, at *7, n2. ⤴︎