As Iowa begins its fifth year as a “shall-issue” state it’s a good time to reflect on the fact that we now have a record number of law-abiding Iowans carrying firearms in public and lower violent crime rates than we did five years ago.
Iowa’s shall-issue weapons permit law was signed into law by then-Governor Chet Culver (D) on April 29th, 2010. It went into effect on January 1st, 2011. The new law tweaked the civilian permit to carry weapons in several ways, but most importantly it required sheriffs to issue permits to Iowans who passed a criminal background check and met several other criteria. Prior to this, sheriffs could arbitrarily deny permits for any reason known only to themselves, essentially leaving Iowa with 99 different permit laws and the potential for personal discrimination.
So where do we stand now?
A recent Fox News article notes that in 2010, before the new law, Iowa had not quite 40,000 permits to carry in force. Last year the number hit 220,000, five and half times what it was in 2010. That means about 7% of Iowa’s population currently has a permit to carry. With all those folks toting guns, what about all those predictions of increased carry causing “havoc and mayhem?”
Well, if Iowa has descended into bloody turmoil it sure isn’t reflected in our violent crime rates. According to FBI statistics in 2008 and 2009 Iowa averaged about 284 violent crimes per 100,000 population. In 2010, when the shall issue was signed, our violent crime rate was at 268.5 crimes. In 2011, the first full year the law was in force, the crime rate fell to 255.6. In 2012 it rose a bit to 265.6. Then in 2013 (the latest year I could find stats for) it fell again to 260.9.
I don’t if every hill and valley in these numbers can be ascribed to Iowa’s permit law, but the fact remains that their are many more lawful guns on the street and violent crime rates are lower than before the law went to effect. At any rate it proves that more law-abiding gun owners carrying in public does NOT cause Old West shootouts and chaos as we were warned. This experience puts us inline with most of the other 40 states who have seen crime rates drop after passing shall issue laws.
Most of the critiques of the law I see nowadays don’t rely on predictions of bloodbaths by deranged permit holders over fender benders but just on the fact that the idea of other Iowans carrying concealed weapons makes the critic feel “icky.” (Here’s one recent example.) Not the best argument to deny a constitutional right.
All in all I think we would have to rule Iowa’s shall issue a success. Iowa’s law-abiding gun owners have proven themselves to be a responsible lot. Now, about Constitutional Carry…