June 15, 2020

Iowa: Legislature Passes Several Sportsmen’s Bill upon Returning to Session

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

Though the Iowa State Legislature was suspended for eleven weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators wasted little time upon their return to the state capital on June 3. During their first week back in session, several pieces of sportsman-related legislation were passed by the Iowa Senate and are now eligible for Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Kim Reynolds’ signature.

On June 3, members of the Iowa State Senate passed House File 2502 (HF2502), a bill that increased protections for shooting ranges, expanded Iowa’s state firearm preemption laws, and specified other powers related to firearms that are vested in a political subdivision of the state of Iowa. Specifically, HF2502 prevents county or city zoning boards from enacting and enforcing any requirement for shooting range establishment or maintenance that are more stringent than the requirements imposed by the state. Such protections prevent local governments from enforcing regulations that unfairly target recreational shooting ranges. Additionally, HF2502 expands Iowa’s existing firearm preemption language to specifically prohibit any political subdivision from enacting an ordinance, motion, resolution, policy, or amendment regulating firearms, firearms attachments, or other legally owned and possessed weapons. Finally, the bill prevents political subdivisions from regulating the storage of weapons and ammunition, though it does allow political subdivisions to restrict the possession of firearms in municipal buildings and courthouses under certain circumstances.

On June 5, the Iowa State Senate concurred with amendments passed by the Iowa House of Representatives for Senate File 280 (SF280). CSF has previously reported on this bill, originally introduced last year by Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Chris Cournoyer as SF215, during the Midwest’s 2020 Regional Legislative Update. SF280 amends the definition of a resident, as it relates to hunting and fishing licenses, to include members of the armed forces and their spouses, stationed in Iowa or at a military installation that is contiguous to a county in Iowa while the member is living in Iowa. This bill would ensure that all active duty military personnel and spouses living in Iowa can take advantage of resident hunting and fishing privileges.

On June 10, the Iowa State Senate passed HF2455, a bill introduced by the Iowa House of Representative’s Natural Resources Committee and sponsored in the Senate by Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Cournoyer which will allow the use of leashed dogs to track and retrieve wounded deer. Hunters using a dog to track wounded deer must maintain physical control of the dog at all times using a leash no longer than fifty feet. Several states allow hunters to use dogs to “blood trail” wounded game. Such efforts allow hunters to ethically employ all available resources to ensure the recovery of game. Also, on June 10, the Senate passed HF716 which updates the caliber requirements for handguns and revolvers used for deer hunting. This update increased the number of legal calibers available to hunters by removing the straight wall cartridge requirement, changing the allowed bullet diameters to range from .350 to .500 inches, and requiring ammunition to have a muzzle energy of at least 500-foot pounds. Handgun hunters under twenty-one years of age must be accompanied by a hunter who is at least twenty-one years of age.

Despite the challenges faced by members of the legislature in 2020, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the efforts of the Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in protecting and advancing the rights of Iowa’s sportsmen and women.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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