Iowa House passes bill allowing guns in public school parking lots

The bill would also allow firearms to be stored in public university and community college parking lots under limited circumstances. It would require Iowa schools to offer firearm safety courses to all students.


Grace Smith

Members of the Senate congregate in the Senate Chamber during the opening of the 2022 Legislative Session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Both the House and Senate Republican leaders said the priority of this session is to return tax funds and address workforce conditions.

Emily Delgado and Liam Halawith

Under a bill passed by the Iowa House on Wednesday, firearms would be permitted in public parking lots owned by the state, including school grounds. 

In a 62-37 vote, House Republicans passed a “firearms omnibus” bill that would require schools to teach firearm safety courses and allow firearms to be stored in vehicles on public parking lots — including public school parking lots and correctional facilities public parking lots. 

House File 654, if passed into law, will add to the already present efforts by Iowa Republicans to implement less restrictive gun laws in the state after a constitutional amendment strengthening gun rights was adopted in November 2022 by Iowa voters. 

This amendment requires strict scrutiny to be applied as the legal standard of review when attempting to limit gun rights, the highest legal hurdle for a bill to pass. 

The bill would still have to pass a vote in the Iowa Senate, but a similar version of the House bill has been voted out of committee in the Senate. 

Democrats argued that the bill would make it easier for school shootings to occur in Iowa. The bill comes just weeks after a shooting at a Nashville Christian school took the lives of nine students and faculty. So far in 2023, there have been 147 mass school shootings in the U.S. — totaling one shooting every 16 hours. 

“Today my thoughts are with the kids across the state and across this country who have literally begged us to do something about gun violence,” said Rep. Heather Matson, D-Ankeny, during the debate on the bill. “They’ve begged us to listen, and they’ve begged us for the right to be safe at schools.”

Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, introduced an amendment to add a red flag law to the bill, but the amendment failed to be added to the bill after it was ruled to be unrelated to the bill’s contents.

“Despite the reality that gun violence is the 2nd leading cause of death among children and teens in Iowa— House Republicans passed a bill making it easier to access deadly firearms on school grounds,” James tweeted on Wednesday following the passing of the bill. 

Following the debate, Democratic Reps. Adam Zabner, Megan Srinivas, and Ruth Ann Gaines used personal points of privilege to read the names of the 377 schools that have experienced a shooting since the 1999 school shooting at Columbine high school in Columbine, Colorado. 

The bill’s house floor manager, Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, said the bill would allow more freedoms for responsible gun owners. He said there are strict restrictions on those who are allowed to bring weapons on school grounds, and where they can legally be stored will protect responsible gun owners and students. 

“I do feel more comfortable when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry a firearm,” he said. “I feel very, very vulnerable in a gun-free zone because I know that mentally ill individuals who have decided to commit violence against other human beings don’t care what the law is.”

The bill specifies that guns must be stored in a locked vehicle, out of sight, with ammunition stored separately when in the school parking lot and otherwise restricted public parking lots. 

The bill also specifies that gun owners would be allowed to possess a loaded firearm on public highways.