While the National Rifle Association dozes quietly on the sidelines (no doubt dreaming of new fundraising appeals), five separate “shall issue” concealed weapons bills have been introduced in the Iowa General Assembly. This fact alone shows that there is growing support for fixing Iowa’s concealed carry law.
Concealed carry laws simply allow that citizens who have passed criminal background checks and firearms training courses can be issued a permit to carry a firearm concealed on their person. Thirty-six states have “shall issue” laws which declare that the issuing authority must issue a permit to qualified applicants. Iowa currently has what is called a “may issue” law. The decision whether or not to issue permits to qualified applicants (or at all) is left to each individual county sheriff. This means that there are 99 separate policies setting standards for proper training and issuance of permits in Iowa, although the permits themselves are valid statewide. [The Iowa map to the upper right shows the relative ease of getting a permit by county, with green being the easiest, yellow medium, and red the hardest. Map courtesy of IowaCarry.org ]
Why would Iowa, or any state, want private individuals to be able to carry guns? Concealed carry laws are partially responsible for the massive declines in crime rates that we’ve seen in America. States which passed concealed carry laws reduced their murder rate by 8.5%, rape by 5%, aggravated assault by 7% and robbery by 3%. Since 1991, 23 states have adopted some form of concealed carry law, the number of privately-owned guns has risen by almost 70 million, while violent crime has declined 38%. Every year, about 500,000 people defend themselves with a firearm while away from their home. [U.S. map to the left from NRA-ILA.]
Of the five bills introduced in the Iowa legislature, three do not fix all the problems of the current system. Some appear to be “shall issue” measures, but leave out important elements such as an appeals process or standardized statewide training requirements. Leaving training standards to local sheriffs allows anti-gun sheriffs to obstruct issuing permits by making the standards impossible to meet. The two best bills are HF 559 and HF 596.
HF 559 is the bill being championed by the pro-gun group Iowa Carry. This bill meets the four requirements that Iowa Carry has fought for: It states that the sheriff “shall issue” to qualified applicants, it standardizes training statewide, it allows for “reciprocity” (recognizing permits from other states), and although it allows sheriffs to deny permits for specified reasons, it allows for an appeals process for applicants who feel they were wrongly denied.
This bill is currently stuck in a three-man subcommittee, the chair of which has a reputation as being the ax man for bills that the Democrat majority wants to disappear. When asked about HF 559, another member of the subcommittee states that he is “[not] in favor of a bunch of idiots running around shooting each other.” The last representative on the committee, Clel Baudler, while a stalwart supporter of the Second Amendment, is the author of one of the other concealed carry bills (HF 193) and therefore might not go to the mat for this one.
HF 596 is a much more sweeping reform of Iowa‘s permit system (and therefore much less likely to pass). According to Gun Owners of America, which supports it, the bill would: Allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms concealed or openly on their hip, without a permit. This is often called “Vermont Carry” after one of the two states that use this policy. (The other, more recent, one is Alaska.) It would allow people to be issued a permit, if they wished to carry in other states that recognize such. Moving beyond right-to-carry issues, this bill would eliminate Iowa’s requirement to get a special permit just to purchase a handgun. This requirement is redundant now that a federal law mandates that all commercial gun sales require a criminal background check.
Although it is good, HF 596 has only slightly better odds of passage than a resolution declaring that hog farmers and the Iowa Hawkeyes suck.
Of the five bills, only Baudler’s HF 193 (SF 258 in the Senate) seems to be going anywhere. This bill is a definite improvement as it would standardize training requirements statewide, grant reciprocity to other states and would establish an appeals process for denied applicants. However, it can’t be considered a true “shall issue” bill since it would still leave issuance criteria solely to the county sheriff.
With five bills floating around the statehouse, there’s a chance that at least one can pass and maybe modestly improve Iowa’s confused weapons permit system. Then again, maybe not.