Subject to limited exceptions, any person seeking to purchase a handgun in Iowa must possess a five-year permit to acquire a handgun, requiring a background check at least once every five years.1 Iowa once required handgun purchasers to obtain a new permit (and undergo a new background check) annually. However, in 2017, the state extended the duration of Iowa permits to acquire handguns from one to five years.2 Under the five-year permit system, county sheriffs in Iowa are authorized to obtain relevant criminal history data and conduct a criminal history check annually on anyone who has been issued a five-year permit to acquire a handgun.3 However, Iowa law does not require a background check to be conducted on handgun permit-holders more frequently than once every five years, the duration of the permit.
Any person acquiring a handgun without possessing a valid five-year permit is criminally liable for an aggravated misdemeanor.4 Iowa also prohibits any person from transferring a handgun to a person who does not possess a valid five-year permit to acquire a handgun, and from transferring a handgun to a person the transferor knows is prohibited by Iowa’s permitting requirements from acquiring ownership of a handgun.5
Iowa prohibits any person from knowingly transferring or acquiring possession, or who facilitates the transfer, of a stolen firearm.6
Generally, Iowa prohibits any person from selling, loaning, giving or making available a rifle or shotgun or ammunition for a rifle or shotgun to a minor (person under age 18).7 Moreover, Iowa prohibits any person from selling, loaning, giving or making available a handgun or handgun ammunition to a person under age 21.8
Private transfers of long guns (i.e., transfers by non-firearms dealers) are not subject to a background check requirement in Iowa, although federal and state purchaser prohibitions still apply. See the Iowa Background Checks section.
See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.