Bills on Iowans’ access to firearms bills advance through legislature

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Two bills involving Class “D” felony convictions and access to firearms have advanced through the legislative process this week.

The House unanimously passed HF 831 on Thursday. The bill, if signed into law, will provide Iowans a one-time expungement opportunity if they have been convicted of an eligible nonviolent class “D” felony. Sentences must have been discharged for more than 10 years without further convictions or deferred judgements for any misdemeanors or felonies. They must have also satisfied parole and probation conditions and any court-ordered costs.

“This bill is a good example of bipartisan common sense criminal justice reform,” Rep. Mary Lynn Wolfe, D-Clinton, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said on the floor of the House. “The enactment of this bill will have a positive impact on the lives of potentially tens of thousands of Iowans and will, over time, make Iowa a safer and a better place to live.”

Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, floor manager on the bill, asked for support on the bill as well.

“This is a great piece of second chance legislation that I believe that we can all rally behind,” Hite said. “This is a bill that acknowledges that people make mistakes in their life, but we also believe that those mistakes should not follow them for the rest of their life.”

With amendment H-1258, the bill, which had previously specified which Class “D” felonies are ineligible for the one-time exemption, also specifies which Class “D” felonies are eligible to be expunged.

“This change narrows the scope of the bill and is being made at the suggestion of the County Attorneys Association,” Wolfe said.

It also clarifies that a felony deferred judgment or a felony conviction that has been expunged is not considered a felony conviction for purposes of Iowa’s law prohibiting convicted felons from possessing a firearm.

“This is consistent with federal law and current practice at the state level,” Wolfe said.

In 2010, there were 4,983 convictions for Class “D” felonies that had been categorized in “as property, drug, public, other or unknown crime types” and the bill is estimated to increase Judicial Branch operating budget costs by $126,000 annually beginning in fiscal year 2022 due to review of an estimated 1,644 expungement applications per year, a fiscal note published March 15 for the bill states. Costs would “likely be higher” than this estimate if applications for expungement filed in the first several years after enactment since “it is possible” that the initial group of applications “will be all convictions for which at least 10 years have passed since discharge of sentence.”

The bill proceeds to the Senate.

The Senate passed in a 31-17 vote on March 22 the guns omnibus bill, HF 756. An updated fiscal note was published March 22 following the House’s amendments to and passage of the bill after hours of discussion. Private gun dealers who transfer, loan or rent firearms who “know or should reasonably know” that the recipient is ineligible to posses the weapon would be committing a class “D” felony.

The bill now awaits Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature.

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