As I read the plethora of news and commentary that are critical of Iowa’s new “shall issue” weapons permit law I’m detecting at least four recurring themes. I’ll use examples of each from a recent post at Blog for Iowa (BFIA) titled “Iowa: A Gun In Every Pot,” since it appears fairly typical of what’s out there and has hints of all four myths.
Myth One- “Carried weapons had to be concealed, now they don’t.”: Blog for Iowa laments, “[M]ore people can have weapons that wouldn’t have qualified before, and they no longer have to be concealed, but don’t worry. Nothing has changed in Iowa.” [Emphasis added.] Here BFIA‘s attempted sarcasm that “nothing has changed” is absolutely true in regard to concealed carry.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety website: “Iowa law has not changed in this regard. You may carry concealed or you may carry openly; however, most permit holders carry concealed to avoid making it obvious that the person is armed, thus avoiding unnecessary attention, concern, or alarm.”
Although it’s exactly the same as under Iowa’s old licensing procedure which was in effect for decades, since the fact that the weapon doesn’t have to be concealed has been so hyped by the media recently, I imagine that some newly-issued permit holders will carry openly just because they can. If so, let me put the hoplophobes’ fears to rest: I have been around firearms all of my life and I have never suffered, nor ever heard of anyone suffering any ill health effects simply by laying eyes upon them. So, to quote the great philosopher Sgt. Hulka from Stripes, “Lighten up, Francis!”
Myth Two- “Permit holders couldn’t carry in bars, now they can.”: BFIA quotes Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals in a KAAL-TV story regarding the “most controversial” part of Iowa’s new law. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to mix alcohol with guns, I don’t think they belong together, however Iowa law does not ban that from happening, ” says Pals.
Although this country was founded and settled by hard-drinkers with guns (in 1790 the average American over 15 years of age consumed 34 gallons of beer or hard-cider, five gallons of hard liquor, and one gallon of wine per annum), the idea of mixing alcohol and guns does indeed fly in the face of our effete modern sensibilities. Even those who support the new law certainly don’t advise carrying a firearm while intoxicated, which is exactly what the new law prohibits.
The new law says that a permit to carry becomes invalid if the holder is legally intoxicated (i.e. has a blood alcohol level of .08, the same threshold to operate a vehicle on public roadways). The myth here is that this new standard is less strict than the status quo. The previous statewide standard for carrying in bars and/or consuming alcohol was no standard at all.
A few county sheriffs did put restrictions on the permits that they issued, such as “Not valid in bars,” but many others did not. For instance, I’ve heard Linn County put such restrictions on its permits, however I could have carried weapons in Linn County with my unrestricted Jones County permit and sat at Moose McDuffy’s in Cedar Rapids and drank Jager bombs to my heart’s content without any standards applying toward being armed. (I’m speaking hypothetically of course, I long ago traded in my drinking hat for a daddy hat.) The new law at least applies some standard to all permit holders.
They couldn’t go with a simple “no carrying weapons in taverns” decree because, what is the difference between a tavern that serves food and a restaurant that serves alcohol? Permit holders would have to audit the books of potential eating joints to find out what percent of their revenues came from alcohol sales or just get stuck eating at McDonalds.
Fanning the hysteria, BFIA notes, “[A]ll a person has to do if you happen to see someone in a bar or a restaurant brandishing heat is call law enforcement and they will promptly show up and make sure the person has a permit to carry.” [Emphasis added.] Wrong. Permit or not, brandishing your weapon has serious legal consequences. One thing that Mike Sieverding of FIERCE Training really hammered into our heads in the permit to carry class I took a few years ago was that if you ever pull your pistol in public, even for a legitimate self-defense use, your life is about to change and not for the better. So when opponents of the new law make it sound like it gives permit holders legal permission to get drunk and wave their pistols around in the local Red Robin, they’re either being disingenuous or genuinely ignorant.
Myth Three- “Sheriff knows best.”: BFIA complains, “Under the new law, permits to carry weapons cannot be denied [italics BFIA’s] unless ‘the applicant is a felon or if they have been through some sort of mental health commitment process. Previously, Iowa sheriffs had the discretion to deny permits if a background check turned up something of concern, such as a history of substance abuse.'”
The dirty little secret here is that under the old law, sheriffs could arbitrarily deny your permit for any reason, known only to themselves. Some just chose not to issue them at all. Many of the people opposing the new law are liberals who would be up at arms if some local official had been allowed to arbitrarily deny voting rights or housing or some other benefit based on their own whims, for fear that that decision might be based upon the applicant’s race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. But when gun rights are involved, nary a peep of protest.
The argument often given is that “sheriffs know the folks in their county and know who the bad eggs are who shouldn’t get a permit,” so we should leave discretion to deny permits solely with them. Now, Sheriff Andy Taylor may have known all the denizens of Mayberry by their first names, but that’s not realistic nowadays, not even in Iowa.
Under the new law all permit applicants have to undergo a criminal background check and specified training requirements. Even then the sheriff can still deny the permit if he thinks there is a problem with the applicant. The difference now is that the sheriff has to give the applicant a written statement explaining why the permit was denied and the applicant can now appeal that decision if he feels it was unfair. What, I ask, is so scary about that?
Myth Four- “Blood in the streets.”: The common belief that more private citizens with guns will lead to increased violence is the central and underlying myth that feeds the rest. This idea has been so thoroughly debunked on a national scale that I can’t believe it still has so many adherents. Mythbusters should do an episode on this.
Many Iowans are too engrossed in whether Vinny and Snooki are going to hook up to realize that “shall issue” is not some strange new idea that fell out of outer space and landed in Iowa. 36 other states have passed similar laws. (Three states go even further and allow weapons to be carried with no permit required.) Violent crime in the U.S. peaked in 1991, since then, 24 states have adopted shall issue laws and the number of privately owned firearms has risen by about 90 million. Now violent crime rates, including murder, are at historic lows. (Remarkably, accidental gun deaths are at historic lows as well.)
A comprehensive study by University of Chicago Professors John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard showed that states which passed “concealed carry laws” reduced their murder rate by 8.5%, robbery by 3%, rape by 5%, and aggravated assault by 7%. I don’t know if Iowa’s will go down that much, because we already had limited concealed carry and fairly low crime rates to begin with, but it puts the lie to the idea that shall issue will drive violence up.
While statistically rare, nothing can totally eliminate the chance of some nutjob going on a shooting rampage like we saw in the recent assassination attempt in Tucson Arizona. But research by Professor Lott and William Landes suggests that concealed handgun laws reduce the likelihood of a “multi-victim public shooting” in a state by up to an incredible 70%. And when they do occur they most often occur in a “gun-free zone” where permit-holders are forbidden from carrying.
I don’t know if this technically fits under the “blood in the streets myth” heading, but I’ll include it just because it annoyed me. BFIA‘s post included “a couple of great letters to the editor” regarding the new shall issue law, cherry-picked from the Iowa City Press Citizen. One letter writer moans: “I understand that schools still can have rules that prevent gun-toters from entering school buildings. But can they prevent people carrying high-powered rifles from standing across the road from school property? No, they can’t. Hey, parents, doesn’t that warm your hearts?”
While I believe that there are several laws that would come into play in such an unlikely scenario, this moronic comment doesn’t really deserve a response. It’s only useful to illustrate the absolute disgust that some of these people view their gun-owning neighbors with. I’m shocked that someone would think that permit holders like myself, who merely want the means to defend our families from harm, really are just looking to get our jollies by standing across from schoolyards with high-powered rifles, licking our chops like hungry foxes watching a chicken coop, waiting for a juicy target to present itself. What more outrageous and hurtful venom can these people spew at us? Can there be a rational debate with people who view us as such vile monsters?
Thankfully I don’t think that most people who have concerns with the new Iowa law are that extreme. Like those of us on the pro-carry side of the debate, they just want what is best to ensure the safety of their families and communities.
If we can learn from the experience of other states, a safer community is exactly what the new shall issue law will deliver. Consider the words of Former Colorado Asst. Attorney General David Kopel, who already went through this process in his own state: “Whenever a state legislature first considers a concealed carry bill, opponents typically warn of horrible consequences….But within a year of passage, the issue usually drops off the news media’s radar screen, while gun-control advocates in the legislature conclude that the law wasn’t so bad after all.”
A year or two from now, when the sky doesn’t fall and the bodies aren’t stacked in the streets like cordwood, most Iowans can go back to not remembering that we have a carry law.