The last Sunday in April I took my county’s class to get a permit to carry concealed weapons. I’m new to all this, so I thought maybe others who were thinking about getting an Iowa weapons permit (which according to a recent Cedar Rapids Gazette article, is an increasing number of you) might want to see what it’s all about, from the vantage point of a fellow newbie. You old pros, who have carried for years, will have to bear with me.
Firstly, In Iowa there are two types of civilian permits dealing with handguns: the “permit to acquire pistols and revolvers” and the “permit to carry weapons.” The names are self-explanatory.
The permit to acquire only requires that you fill out a form at your county sheriff’s office, pay a small fee and submit to a criminal background check. This will allow you to purchase handguns, but is not needed for long arms.
To carry a gun in public, you’ll need a permit to carry weapons. Although the law doesn’t say the weapon has to be concealed, it’s generally understood to be a good idea, to avoid “scaring the horses.” A permit to carry also functions as a permit to acquire.
Here’s where things get confusing because Iowa leaves each county sheriff with wide discretion as to how or even if permits to carry are issued to the citizens in each county. Essentially, Iowa has 99 different policies on carry permits. Efforts by gun rights advocates to establish a uniform statewide standard for carry permits have met with surprising resistance in the Iowa legislature.
So getting a carry permit in your county may well be different than it was for me. Some sheriffs refuse to issue them even to legally qualified applicants. Luckily, my sheriff in Jones County does.
I visited the sheriff’s office and filled out the requisite paperwork to allow a background check and paid $25 for the required class. In the short time I was there, there was an older married couple in line ahead of me, also signing up for the class, and one guy came in behind me to sign up. The 30 slots in the class filled up fast.
A few weeks later I arrived at the local shooting range where the class was held. I knew that there would be a written test as well as a live-fire proficiency test with my pistol. Besides that, I didn’t know what to expect.
First Sheriff Mark Denniston addressed the class, which was composed of a fairly diverse mix of young and old, male and female. The sheriff told the applicants what was expected of them if they got their permits. Then he turned the class over to the two professional firearms instructors who the sheriff’s department contracts with to teach the class: Mike and Ernie.
Mike Sieverding is CEO of Sieverding Engineering Enterprises and Chief Firearms Instructor for F.I.E.R.C.E. (Firearms Instruction for Every Responsible Citizen Everywhere). Ernie Traugh is an instructor and the owner of Cedar Valley Outfitters, a gun and shooting supply shop in Marion. Both men are also reserve police officers.
Most of the class dealt with the legal aspects of having the permit. Mike and Ernie did a good job on what could have been a rather dry subject. They also reminded the class what a truly grim situation a defensive shooting would be if, God-forbid, anyone did have to use their weapon. They really drove home the point that things don’t play out as they do in the movies. They also encouraged everyone to continue to practice with their own weapons and take further firearms instruction classes to increase proficiency.
After about 5 or so hours in the classroom and after completing the written test on the subjects addressed by Mike and Ernie, it was time for the range test. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the shooting test. After pheasant and squirrel hunting growing up and 6 years in the infantry, I have spent much more trigger time with rifles and shotguns than with pistols.
It turned out I was sweating for nothing. I knew that the test was at 10 yards with FBI silhouette targets. I spent the month before the class practicing with my .45 (at the very shooting range where the class was held, coincidentally). Once I knew I could hit the target at 10 yards, I practiced at 15 and 20 yards as well, just for my own satisfaction.
I ended up getting 100% on the shooting test. Still, I would like to take some of Sieverding’s other pistol courses to break myself of some of the bad shooting habits that I have no doubt picked up from pistol plinking with “the guys.”
That was it. I waited a week then called the sheriff’s office. I’ll pay a $10 license fee when I pick it up tomorrow.
If the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is something you really believe in and being able to protect your family while away from home is truly important to you and if you’re comfortable with the idea, I encourage you to investigate what it takes to get a carry permit in your own county. The folks at the local gun shop or shooting range and IowaCarry.org can point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you.