Firearms on school grounds (March 2018 School Leader Update)
Iowa Code section 724.4B prohibits firearms on school grounds with few exceptions. In the wake of recent events, the Iowa Department of Education has received several inquiries about whether it is lawful to carry a weapon on school grounds if the carrier has a permit to carry. In January 2011, certain amendments to the Iowa Code provisions governing carrying weapons went into effect. In short, the amendments made it easier to get a non-professional permit to carry weapons in the state of Iowa. However, even if a person has a non-professional permit to carry weapons, Iowa Code section 724.4B clearly prohibits firearms on school grounds.
Iowa Code section 724.4B specifically states that bringing weapons onto the grounds of a school is a class D felony. The only exceptions to having a firearm on school grounds are if:
- The person is a peace officer, member of the armed forces or National Guard, or correctional officer, who is carrying the weapon in connection with his or her duties as such; or
- The weapon is unloaded, inside a closed and fastened container or securely wrapped package or in the luggage or cargo compartment (i.e., trunk) of a vehicle; or
- The school has specifically authorized the person to bring the weapon onto school grounds, such as for purposes of conducting an instructional program regarding firearms; or
- An employee of a private investigative agency or security agent with a license to carry a concealed weapon, while engaged in the performance of duties.
Moreover, Iowa Code section 724.7, as amended, specifically states that a permit is not valid where possessing or carrying a firearm is prohibited by state or federal law. Under federal law, it is generally unlawful to possess a firearm in a “school zone,” subject to exceptions similar to those in the Iowa Code described above. 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2). “School zone” includes the grounds of any public or private elementary or secondary school, as well as all public property within 1,000 feet of such a school. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(25).
In summary, unless an exception applies, both state and federal law clearly prohibit firearms on school grounds regardless of whether a person has a lawful permit to carry a weapon.
Questions on Iowa Code Section 724.4B and Other Means of Protection
The Department has received many questions regarding fact-specific situations relating to application of Iowa Code section 724.4B and other means of protection that can be used in schools, on school grounds, or at school events. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to these questions. Besides relevant state and federal laws that apply, there also may be local school board policies and local law enforcement policies to consider. Superintendents and school districts should contact their local school attorneys to discuss these issues on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, local law enforcement and school resource officers should contact their department, city attorney, county attorney, and/or U.S. Attorney for guidance on these issues.