Weapons Charges in Iowa

Learn when it’s illegal in Iowa to possess, carry, or use guns and other dangerous weapons.

Iowa requires a license to carry a handgun or any loaded gun (openly or concealed) within city limits—or to carry any concealed dangerous weapon inside or outside of cities. The state also restricts gun possession by felons, minors, and others. Read on to learn about these and other important weapons laws in Iowa.

Carrying Handguns and Other Weapons Without a Permit

It’s against the law in Iowa to carry a handgun in a vehicle or on your body—either openly or concealed—within city limits. It's also illegal to carry any other dangerous weapon concealed on your body, whether you're in a city or in rural areas. However, these restrictions don't apply if you:

  • have a valid permit to carry weapons
  • are in your home or place of business, or on land you rent or own
  • are 18 or older and are carrying a stun gun (but not a Taser)
  • are carrying an unloaded gun or other dangerous weapon inside a closed container or luggage compartment
  • are legally hunting, fishing, or engaged in target practice; or
  • are a peace officer, corrections officer, or member of the military whose duties require the weapons.

Generally, you’ll face aggravated misdemeanor charges for violating these restrictions, although the penalties are lower for carrying a concealed knife (with a blade shorter than eight inches) that you haven’t used in a crime.

For purposes of this and other Iowa laws on weapons, dangerous weapons are defined as including firearms, stun guns or Tasers, daggers, razors, switchblades, and any knives with a blade longer than five inches. (Iowa Code §§ 702.7, 724.4 (2019).)

Who Can Get a Permit to Carry in Iowa?

In order to get a permit to carry weapons in Iowa, you must be at least 21 years old (unless you qualify for a professional permit as part of your job), have completed a firearms safety course, and pass a background check. Several things in your background could make you ineligible for a permit, including being addicted to alcohol, anything that would bar you from possessing guns under federal or state law (as discussed below), a recent conviction for any serious or aggravated misdemeanor, or any recent actions showing that you’re likely to use a weapon illegally. If you don’t have (or qualify for) a permit to carry weapons, you’ll need a separate permit to buy a handgun. (Iowa Code §§ 724.8, 724.9, 724.15 (2019).)

Carrying Guns at Schools

You can be charged with a Class D felony in Iowa for carrying a firearm, openly or concealed, on the grounds of a public or private K-12 school in Iowa, unless you’ve been specifically authorized to do so or you meet one of the other exceptions for law enforcement or licensed private security (Iowa Code § 724.4b (2019)).

Carrying While Under the Influence

If you’re intoxicated, it’s a serious misdemeanor in Iowa to carry a dangerous weapon on your body (except at home or your business) or within reach in a vehicle (Iowa Code § 724.4c (2019)).

Iowa Prohibitions on Possession of Firearms and Offensive Weapons

It’s a Class D felony in Iowa to have a gun if you:

  • have a previous conviction for a felony or an equivalent juvenile offense, or
  • have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse or are subject to a protective order under Iowa’s domestic violence laws.

Anyone in the state (except law enforcement and military personnel) can also be charged with a Class D felony for possessing certain types of especially dangerous weapons, including short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, bombs, grenades, and ballistic knives. (Iowa Code §§ 724.1, 724.1c, 724.2, 724.26 (2019).)

Allowing Children or Young Adults to Have Guns

It's against the law in Iowa to provide a rifle to a minor (under age 18), unless you're the minor's parent or you have the parent's consent to do so. It's also a crime to provide a handgun to anyone under age 21. Parents may allow their under-21 children to have handguns for legal purposes, but only while they’re under direct supervision by the parent or an adult instructor. First violations of this law are treated as a serious misdemeanor, but subsequent violations will be charged as a Class D felony. Adults who are intoxicated while supervising young people with handguns may be charged with child endangerment.

You could also face serious misdemeanor charges for improper storage of a loaded firearm if a minor under age 14 gains access to the gun and either shows it in public or uses it to hurt someone. The law applies if the gun isn’t secured with a trigger lock, kept in a locked container, or placed in a location that any reasonable person would believe is secure from a young person. However, you won’t be charged if a minor gets the gun after an illegal break-in. (Iowa Code § 724.22 (2019).)

Iowa Laws on Illegal Gun Use

Iowa outlaws certain uses of guns and other dangerous weapons, including:

  • firing a gun intentionally and recklessly
  • pointing a dangerous weapon at someone or showing it in a threatening way (a form of assault in Iowa)
  • shooting at an occupied building or vehicle, and
  • setting a spring gun.

Punishment ranges from simple misdemeanor to Class C felony, depending on the circumstances. The state also increases the penalties for other crimes—such as domestic assault and stalking—when dangerous weapons are involved. (Iowa Code §§ 708.1, 708.2a, 708.6, 708.9, 708.11, 724.30,

Getting Legal Help

If you’ve been charged with any crime related to weapons, you should speak with an Iowa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Many weapons offenses are felonies, and conviction could result in prison time and a serious criminal record. An attorney can explain the legal process, protect your rights, and help you prepare the best defense possible under the circumstances.

Watch Out for Legal Changes

States can change their laws at any time, but you can always check the Iowa Code to find the current versions of statutes discussed in this article. Also, you should know that court decisions may affect how those laws are interpreted and applied—another good reason to talk to a lawyer if you’re concerned about actual or potential weapons charges.

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