What’s In Iowa’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ Law?

226fd-range_shooterOn April 13th, 2017 Governor Branstad signed HF517 into law. Iowa Firearms Coalition, the chief catalyst for getting it passed, called it “the biggest gun bill in Iowa history.” While supporters say it will revitalize Iowans’ Second Amendment rights and increase safety, opponents said that it would take Iowa back to the “Wild West” and was even “evil” and sanctioned “racism.” Wow!

So, what’s actually in this thing? Let’s take a look. (Bear in mind that this piece is written by a layman for laymen. I’m not an attorney and nothing I say should be considered legal advice. I’m way too underpaid for that.) The law is broken down into fourteen separate divisions, each one dealing with a different topic.

Division One is pretty straight forward, it simply gets rid of Iowa’s state ban on “short-barreled” rifles and shotguns. Keep in mind that you still have to comply with federal law on these. This means paying hundreds of dollars to the federales, registering the weapon with them, getting a tax stamp, and a bunch of other stuff I’m never going to do. I’ll just stick with a 16″ or longer barrel. But Iowans who want short-barreled weapons now have legal avenue to get them.

Division Two is titled “CARRYING WEAPONS AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS” and is a bit more wide-ranging.  Most important here is that it changes Iowa law to recognize that “going armed with intent” to do bad things cannot be inferred just because someone is carrying a concealed weapon. That’s good news for Iowa’s 200,000+ permit to carry (PTC) holders, since lawfully carrying your firearm alone can no longer be used an excuse to charge someone with that class D felony by some politically motivated prosecutor.

Another provision in Division Two allows duly licensed private investigators  and private security officers to carry weapons on school grounds in the performance of their duties. That won’t affect many people.  This division also makes it a serious misdemeanor to carry or possess a dangerous weapon if you’re legally intoxicated, unless you’re on your own property.

One last provision here allows someone who gets busted for not having their PTC with them to have the charge dismissed if they show the court that they did indeed have a valid permit. Previously, forgetting your permit at home was the same as not having one at all.

Division Three seeks to clean up and clarify the PTC application process and training requirements. One change is that applicants will only have to provide proof of training for their INITIAL permit. It’s no longer required for renewals. That proof of training can come from the usual sources: military or police training from any time, or civvy training within the prior twenty-four months.

One thing that had opponents’ undies in a bunch was that this provision specifically says internet training was acceptable.  Regardless of what the law says, I hope everyone gets as much good hands-on training as they can as soon as they’re able to. Not to appease the naysayers, which is a fool’s errand, but because it just makes good sense.

This provision also spells out that if you don’t apply for your renewal of a PTC within 30 days prior to its expiration or 30 after, your next application will be treated as an initial permit, WITH the training requirements and a $50 fee rather than a $25 renewal fee. Division Three also states that PTC’s will now have a uniform appearance statewide and if a PTC applicant is found to have been wrongfully denied a PTC that applicant can be awarded court costs.

Division Four is another straight forward provision. It merely makes Iowa’s completely unnecessary ” permit to acquire pistols or revolvers” good for 5 years, instead of the current 1 year. It will also make sure they are of a uniform appearance statewide. These archaic things were rendered redundant with the introduction of required instant background checks with gun sales, which is why gun rights supporters initially tried to scrap them outright. Oh well, this is still progress on this front.

For some reason Division Five elicited a lot of pants wetting by liberals and the press (but I repeat myself). This provision merely allows parents to instruct their children on how to safely handle handguns. A previous Iowa law said a child had to be at least 14 to even touch a handgun (but were allowed to fire rifles and shotguns at any age of the parents’ discretion).

HF517 states: “A parent or guardian or spouse who is twenty-one years of age or older, of a person under the age of twenty-one may allow the person ,while under direct supervision, to possess a pistol or revolver or the ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose , or while the person receives instruction in the proper use thereof from an instructor twenty-one years of age or older, with the consent of such parent, guardian or spouse.” The law defines “direct supervision” as: “supervision provided by the parent, guardian, or spouse who is twenty-one years of age or older and who maintains a physical presence near the supervised person conducive to hands-on instruction, and who maintains visual and verbal contact at all times with the supervised person.” Clutch my pearls!

I don’t understand how handguns are fundamentally different from rifles or shotguns. If kids are bound to encounter all types of firearms, why not be able to teach them about all types. When this same provision was proposed last year, opponents declared that it would create a “militia of toddlers” in Iowa. When opponents are reduced to arguing against issues with absurd hyperbole they obviously have no clue and no credibility.

Division Six is also pretty simple. It merely states that personally identifiable information on nonprofessional PTC holders kept by the Commissioner of Public Safety and county sheriffs shall be kept confidential. No more releasing the names and addresses of permit holders to the newspapers to be printed for back-fence gossip or as shopping lists for burglars.

Division Seven strengthens Iowa’s existing preemption law, which had previously been rendered almost meaningless by the state’s anti-gun attorney general. The new provision states that if a city or county makes a rule regulating gun ownership that is otherwise legal in the state, the person adversely affected may sue that city or county for damages.

Division Eight allows for PTC holders to carry concealed at the Iowa state capitol buildings and grounds. This is probably not something that most of us will be doing much of, but is probably more of a symbolic gesture since Iowans should be able to exercise basic freedoms there.

Division Nine prohibits the governor or local officials from seizing legal firearms or curtailing normal gun rights during a state of emergency. If an official violates this provision, it allows the aggrieved person to seek return of property, damages and/or injunctive relief.

Division Ten is probably the laws most controversial provision, what is commonly called “stand-your-ground.” While this got the most press it will probably not affect most gun owners (thank God). If you find yourself impacted by the stand-your-ground provisions of this law, you’re already in a world of hurt.

The “justifiable use of reasonable and deadly force” was already covered by existing law and HF517 alters some of the parameters around it, but not as drastically as you might think. If fact the legal definition of “reasonable force” doesn’t change at all. It’s still: “[T]hat force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat.”

Since the definition of “reasonable force” hasn’t changed, it stands to reason that what was “unreasonable” before the new law is still “unreasonable.” So people who think that the HF517 gives gun owners carte blanche to act like they’re in a Quentin Tarantino movie have another thing coming.

The new law does add that “a person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.” [Emphasis added.]

It also adds that a “person who is not engaged in illegal activity has no duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force as specified in this chapter.” That sentence is the meat of “stand-your-ground” that, for some reason, gives some people fits.

The law makes a few other tweaks as well, such as providing some criminal and civil immunity for a person is justified in using reasonable force.

I’m no lawyer, but none of this reads like stuff that will allow you to shoot everyone for no reason and certainly doesn’t declare an “open season on black people” (as I heard one critic warn). In fact, this isn’t some strange alien legal concept; only 15 states DON’T have “stand-your-ground” laws. By imposing a legal duty on crime victims to turn their back to their attackers and try to flee, Iowa was among the minority fringe of states. But no longer; welcome to normalcy Iowa!

Division Eleven makes it a class “D” felony to illegally buy a weapon or ammo, knowingly provide false information on your gun purchase paperwork, or get someone else to do it for you. This shouldn’t affect you unless you’re a crook.

Division Twelve removes the previous requirement that a person on a snowmobile or ATV carry their handgun a special retention holster. You can now use any kind of holster.

Division Thirteen was a rather neat little surprise since I didn’t really hear about it until I read the law for myself.  It states that owners or tenants of private property in unincorporated areas (or folks with their permission) may discharge a firearm for target practice on those private premises. Further, “the use of such private premises for target shooting shall not be found to be in violation of a noise ordinance or declared a public or private nuisance or be otherwise prohibited under state or local law.” Ideally this law shouldn’t be necessary since you should be able to do pretty much whatever you want on your own land, but it’s a nice protection since that’s often not how it goes in modern America.

Division Fourteen sets up the effective dates. The section allowing parents to train their kids on handgun safety (Division Five) and the section keeping personal PTC information confidential (Division Six) go into effect immediately. All the rest go into effect July 1st, which is when new Iowa laws usually take effect. Division Fourteen also states that Division Six confidentiality is for nonprofessional PTC holders.

In total, HF517 can certainly be viewed as a huge win for Iowa’s gun owners. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be a loss for any other Iowan (other than maybe the occasional ruffian). So if you are someone who is morosely fretting about the sky falling from Wild West shootouts, racial genocide and toddler militias out your front door: Take heart! Your fellow Iowans are not the irresponsible, despicable, racist, pieces of human debris that you’ve been led to believe they are. Life will go on, just as it did after the “shall issue” permit law was passed, and individual Iowans are a bit freer. That’s a good thing.



‘First four’ priorities for action in GOP-led Iowa Senate

Priorities for GOP-led Iowa Senate include balanced budget and right to bear arms amendments to state constitution, defunding Planned Parenthood, and tort reform.


Jacob Sullum: "Autonomous Terrorism Calls for Autonomous Defense"

Columnist Jacob Sullum had an excellent article at reason.com about how armed citizens are a logical defense against the type of diffused terrorist attacks we’re seeing.  Writes Sullum:

“There is not much the government can do about the sort of terrorist threat that President Obama described in his speech on Sunday. It will always be difficult to stop self-radicalized jihadists, operating under no one’s instructions, from carrying out attacks on soft targets too scattered and numerous to secure.

“The only viable alternative, self-help, is one that Obama seems ideologically incapable of considering. His proposals for new restrictions on firearms move in the opposite direction, based on the assumption that the problem is too many guns in too many hands.

“Gun control supporters generally dismiss the notion that armed citizens can help stop terrorists and other mass shooters. They argue that unbadged amateurs will be frozen by fear, that they will accidentally shoot innocent people, or that police will mistake them for bad guys.

“These possibilities do not negate the lifesaving potential of encouraging greater self-reliance in situations where waiting for police to arrive means waiting for coldblooded murderers to kill and kill again. We know from experience that intervention by people already at the scene can make a crucial difference.”

Read the entire article HERE.

Starting Year 5 of ‘Shall Issue,’ Iowa has More Guns, Less Crime



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

10 Questions with Corey D. Roberts (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

Corey D. Roberts is the founder of Tactical Insights L.L.C. in Monticello, Iowa, which provides “Christ-Centered Emergency Response Training” for churches and faith based organizations as well as tactical training for law enforcement and private citizens.

Roberts is currently a full-time patrol police officer with the Monticello P.D. and also serves on the multi-jurisdictional Jones County Emergency Response Team as Tactical Commander. He also serves in the Iowa Army National Guard (having served as an enlisted man, NCO and officer) and has been deployed several times.

Officer Roberts agreed to answer a few questions for me about guns, crime and freedom. The views expressed are those of Roberts and not necessarily those of any organization he may be affiliated with.

6. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would ban “assault weapons” and “high capacity” ammunition magazines. Says Feinstein, “Military-style assault weapons have but one purpose, and in my view that’s a military purpose, to hold at the hip, possibly, to spray fire to be able to kill large numbers.” You are intimately familiar with weapons like the AR-15 (which would be affected by the ban). What exactly is an “assault weapon?” Do you agree with Feinstein’s analysis of the purpose and proper employment (such as being designed to be “spray fired” from the hip) of weapons like the AR-15?

            Sen. Feinstein watches too much television.  I will begin by answering the basic question of “What is an Assault Weapon?”  To be perfectly honest, as a firearms expert, I don’t know.  The term “Assault Weapon” is not a gun term, it is a political term that is used to scare people.  The term “AR” does not stand for assault rifle.  It stands for Armalite, which is the company that produced the modern civilian model of the gas operated, magazine fed, semi-automatic sporting rifle.  Armalite developed the AR-15.  Having been in the military for 20 years I can say without question that no one is taught to “hold at the hip and spray,” certainly not with the black rifle that she is comparing to the civilian semi-automatic rifle.  Currently our military is issuing an M4 which is similar in design to the civilian model, but functions differently.  Even our military does not issue “spray and pray” weapons.  The current issued M4 is not fully automatic and instead uses a 3 round burst mode.

This argument has nothing at all to do with banning a specific firearm.  These terms such as “high capacity magazines” and “Military style assault weapons” are being used to divide the gun enthusiasts in this country.  The liberals who wish to confiscate our firearms understand that they cannot simply say that they are going to ban firearms, they have to start slowly.  If they can convince the hunters and collectors in the country that the only “bad guns” are the “assault weapons” it sounds reasonable, and people want to be reasonable.  They are working to convince the guy with the shotgun that he has nothing to fear and that no one “needs” 30 rounds.

As an aside, I mentioned that we have begun to define all of our needs as rights, so why are we surprised when the government begins to infringe on our rights based on need?  I disagree with the premise that our rights are defined by need.  The argument that I have used is that if our rights are based on need, then please explain to me the need for Rosa Parks to sit in the front of the bus.  It was her right, not her need.

Our government has developed a pattern that is easy to follow if we pay attention.

 Step 1. Create a term that everyone can agree is bad.

Step 2. Refuse to define said term but continue to use it and enlist the media to join you in using it.

Step 3.  Wait for a critical incident in which said term can be applied and the “people” cry out for government intervention.

Step 4:  Create your own definition for the term.

For example, our government uses the term “assault weapon” and even uses the term “reasonable” when attempting to convince the American people that no one needs them.  The media then splashes the term “assault weapon” only when describing a weapon used by a crazed gunman and never when used by anyone else.  A great example of this was the Dorner case in California in which one media outlet used the term “assault weapon” when speaking of Dorner, but used the term “personal defense weapon” when talking about the exact same weapon used by law enforcement in the same article.  When confronted about the definition of “assault weapon” the government uses another non-definable term to define it, “military style”.  So, we have the media and the citizens agreeing that “assault weapons” are bad, but when the ban list comes out from Sen. Feinstein, we see that she is actually referring to any weapon with a detachable magazine and any weapon with a pistol grip.  But by now the media frenzy has convinced the people that the government is only after “assault weapons”.

Some other examples of this government pattern is the use of the term “universal background check”.  Again this term has been championed as “reasonable” but has yet to be defined.  “Mental health assessment” has been spoken of as a “reasonable step” to curb gun crime, but has not been defined.  Questions for those who support the Universal background check and Mental health assessments are as follows: Will the government maintain a record of every citizen who had a background check to pass family heirloom rifle to their children?  What parts of the “background” is involved?  Will this background check be compared to any “watch lists”?  (The DOJ stated that combat veterans should be on a watch list.)  Who will receive a “mental health assessment”?  At what age will we begin to “classify” our citizens based on this assessment?  (People are very different at 16, 22, and 35.)  Who will be deciding what is mentally “fit”?  Does marital counseling bring into question whether a person is mentally “fit?  What about “sexual deviancy” (remember homosexuality was a diagnosable mental condition)? What is to be done with those “classified mentally unfit” persons? 

Can you see where these questions are going?  I follow the rule that anytime the government uses the term “reasonable”, I begin to question it right away, governments are anything but reasonable.

When we allow our government to infringe on our rights based on terms that sound scary such as “domestic terrorist,” we all agree that “terrorists are bad and should be killed.”  The problem is that the government’s definition of “terrorist” can be re-defined to mean anyone who the government sees as a threat. 

The 2nd Amendment was specifically put in place to ensure that the people had the power and the government did not.  Those who believe that only the military and police should control the guns, or that only they should have the most recent technology in firearms must also agree that only the government should have control of the media and internet.  Our government is very aware of the power of an armed populace and shows it by arming citizens all around the world to overthrow their own governments, such as Egypt, Lybia, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.  I do not trust a government that wishes to disarm its own population.

Make no mistake, this gun legislation has never been about guns, it’s been about control and many in our government have been waiting for just the right catalyst to push the agenda.  

Limiting “high capacity magazines” is another example of this erosion of rights.  My first question to anyone advocating this is “Please tell about all the firefights that you have been in that led you to the conclusion that people only need 7 rounds?”  Who does this “limit” hurt?  An active shooter by statistics will bring multiple weapons, multiple magazines and lots of extra ammo.  The free citizen who is carrying a firearm is the only one allowed a limited number of rounds.

This free citizen has not planned to be in a fight for his life today, the crazed gunman has a plan.  The citizen is required to respond to a well-planned, prepared for attack with whatever he has on his person.  Will the limit on magazines affect the preparedness of the crazed shooter?  Of course not, it will simply make it harder for the citizen to defend him or herself.

7. Your website includes a statement of faith and says that you “felt a strong call of God to minister to the local church in matters of Emergency Preparation, Response and Training.” It’s obvious that your Christian faith is central to your life. Some Christians, however, wouldn’t touch a gun with a ten foot pole. They would cite Christ’s instruction to “turn the other cheek” or the Sixth Commandment. According to the National Council of Churches ofChrist, U.S.A., “Christian tradition insists that it is idolatry to trust in guns to make us secure, since that usually leads to mutual escalation while distracting us from the One whose love alone gives us security.” How do you square your Christian faith with the potential deadly force of firearms?

We believe that a Christ-Centered Security Team is a group of Christians who desire to apply a Tactical Mindset to serve God and their local church through preparedness and willingness to respond in event of an emergency.  I have a lot of respect for the National Council of Churches of Christ but I tend to disagree with many of their stances on several issues. 

Their stance based on “Christian tradition” is well meaning but does not address the realities of the Bible. Our security for our ministries should be based in faith and managed in action.

While we embrace the biblical teaching that God will provide our needs and we believe the Bible when it says in Matthew 6:25 “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you should drink; nor yet for your body, what you should wear,” this faith and confidence does not remove us from participating in our own preservation.  Christ was not telling us to stand around waiting for food to fall into our mouths, or water to just appear.  We do not stand in our bedrooms in the morning and wait for clothes to float out of the sky and land on us.  These require action on our part.

Nehemiah 4:9  “We prayed to our God and posted a guard…” 

Isaiah 62:6- I have set Watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night.

Nehemiah 4:9-…because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

John 15:13  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Luke 10:19- Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.

Luke 22:36-…and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.

1 Peter 5:8- Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Romans 13:4- For he is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

In 2012 alone, there were 135 total deadly force incidents in churches and ministries alone and this number is increasing every year.  We have taught Response to Active Shooters both armed and unarmed.  This choice is as personal for a Christian as it is for any other citizen.   

While I may disagree with many things that the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A. believes I firmly stand with Philippians 1:15 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

8. If talking to someone who was new to guns and was looking to purchase, what weapons would be your top picks for concealed carry and for home defense and any other category you think relevant?

Rule 1: ignore the hype. Every “gun guy” out there will be more than willing to give you advice on the perfect weapon/caliber/cool guy gear out there. I would stick with a reputable manufacturer. Think simple, especially for a defensive weapon. If it requires buttons and switches and voodoo spells to fire…it’s too complicated.

Also don’t buy the hype of “knock down power” and buy a huge caliber. For one, it will be more expensive to shoot and two if it’s not easy to shoot, you won’t shoot. I use the analogy that if someone were to give me a 20,000 dollar set of golf clubs, I would chase that stupid little ball through the trees all day the same I would with a 60 dollar youth set from Wal-Mart.

Proficiency requires practice. A well placed set of rounds from a 9mm or .40 caliber will do the same as a .45…good guy wins, bad guy loses. With the current advancements in AMMO, the old argument of Big Caliber=One shot stop is gone. This isn’t TV, it’s not high noon and people don’t fly across the room when shot…even with a .45. I personally would not go smaller than 9mm but I really prefer the 9mm.  Higher ammo count, less recoil, less weight, awesome power with good ammo.

On the other side of that argument, a .22LR that one is willing to carry is more effective than a hand cannon at home or in the glove box.

I would suggest getting an idea of what you are looking for:
Am I going to carry it every day?
Is it easy to operate?
Can I conceal it?
Is ammo easy to acquire for it?
How much do I want to spend?
Will I enjoy shooting it?- Only practice makes proficient
Will it work under the worst possible conditions?- Murphy’s Law.

I would suggest looking at the Glocks, Smith and Wesson M and P’s or Sig Saur. For small carry guns Khar makes some very nice pistols.  One way is to hit up a local gun club and talk to people. 74% of law enforcement carry Glock and the majority carry one of the other two. The reason is simple…they are proven, no gimmicks, no “latest greatest”, just a solid combat pistol that will operate when needed.

There really isn’t a trick to it, which is why I offer people to shoot different stuff (anything I have) at my classes. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of people that will allow that. I carry a Glock 22 .40 caliber on duty, a Sig 229 .40 caliber on the SWAT team and a Glock 26 9mm off duty. My wife Jeannine carries a Glock 19 9mm. We have been very happy with them. I also occasionally carry a .357 revolver and have no problem with it other than low round count.

Cost is going to be an issue because of the buying that is going on ahead of Congress making some possible moves. You should look to spend $350-$600 on a good quality handgun. For a convenient carry pistol, I would also suggest looking at the Beretta Nano (it’s a 9mm). I have just started carrying it so I can give other ideas for people who “don’t want a Glock” and I have been very happy with it. It runs about $360.00.

I have nothing personally against the big 1911.  45’s other than the ones manufactured today have a VERY strong emphasis on accuracy, which is why you see the competition shooters using them. The way they get this is by making the guns tolerances VERY tight. This leads to problems with functioning in a defensive “combat” pistol role. I have NEVER had a 1911 shooter make it through one of my classes without having malfunctions. When they get dirty, they begin to have issues. Not a problem on the range…BIG problem for defense. Of course, you also run into issues with concealability with the big 45s.

Choosing a handgun is as close to purse shopping as we can get. It has to work for you. Just because some “expert” says that some brand is the “best” or some caliber is the “must-have” does not make it true.  You need to pick it up and hold it.  If it feels wrong in your hand, you probably should keep looking.  Ideally, you should shoot that make and model before buying it.

For home defense, I prefer the 12 Gauge shotgun with a “pirate grip” and a side saddle with extra rounds.  Very little will discourage an intruder more than the sound of a pump action shotgun.  If that is not enough to discourage them, the first round will certainly help convince them.  Another reason I prefer it is that I can choose the round that I wish to have in it.  I use target load as the first several rounds in order to eliminate over penetration in my own home.  I have double 00 buck and slugs in the side saddle if needed.  The home defense weapon should be part of a total home defense plan that includes physical security, phones in appropriate rooms and practiced drills. 

The reality is that just because a gun is really cool and effective in Call of Duty does not make it a practical choice for self-defense. 

9. You and I are about the same age. In addition to having a lovely family, you’ve amassed significant civilian, military and law enforcement training. You’ve authored a book and numerous articles. You’ve racked up real world experience on the streets at home as well as serving in Kosovo and Afghanistan and even fighting wildfires in Montana. In contrast, aside from two wonderful sons, my only accomplishment has been to collect all five seasons of “Quantum Leap” on DVD. What is your secret for accumulating such a wide breadth of experience before you’re even forty?

 I distinctly remember a conversation with my Dad that night before I left for Army Basic Training at the age of 17.  During this conversation my Dad told me to ignore those who lived by the rule “Don’t volunteer for anything” and to take every opportunity for a new experience.  I have followed that advice in every area of my life.  While there were times that volunteering caused me to do tasks that I did not enjoy, more often it afforded me the chance to do something amazing. 

Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”  I don’t know the trick to being driven.  I do credit my upbringing and the example of my father.  Were I to give a young man advice, I would simply say, “Volunteer for everything.  In every task you have, work to be the best at it.  Learn from those who have gone before.  Accept responsibilities that are given to you and do them to the best of your ability.”

Years ago during Army Officer Candidate School, I was selected as the “Kai-Bo Commander”. For those that do not know what a Kai-Bo is, they are also called Port-a-Johns or any other inappropriate names that one can think of.  I was in charge of the plastic toilets just like the ones at construction sites. To say the least, I was not impressed with my assignment. My job was to ensure that the toilets were reserved, delivered and placed at the various training sites where we would be conducting field operations.  The position I felt I deserved was that of Class Commander, or at least a Platoon Leader, but no, I was Candidate Roberts, “Kai-Bo Commander”. This was obviously not my proudest moment.

I decided that if someone had to do it, then I would be the best Kai-Bo Commander the Army had ever seen. Don’t be fooled, this didn’t make my job any less demeaning, or any more glamorous. What it did do was show my superiors that I was willing to take the task and do it to the best of my abilities.  The happy ending to the story is that after a short time, I was taken off of Kai-Bo duty and given a position that I felt was much more in line with my desires.

When you are given a task, do it to the best of your ability every time. Even if it is not the duty you want, take the small steps.  The Bible has a parable of a rich man who was traveling and left his servants with some money.  To one servant he gave ten, to another five and to the final two.  When he returned, he asked the servants what they had done with the money and the one with ten said, I invested it and made ten more. The rich man gave him control of ten cities.  The servant with five said I invested and made five more. The rich man gave him control of five cities.  The final servant said, I kept the money and did nothing with it. The rich man called him a wicked and slothful servant and took the two away from him and gave it to the one with ten. ~Matthew 25:14-30

The simple point to his story is that when given more, more is expected. Prove that you can handle the little things and you will be given greater and greater responsibility.  When you are put in charge of small tasks, do them as though they are the most important task that can be had. Show your willingness and ability to accept those challenges and you will be given more responsibilities.  Fail in the small tasks, and it will be understood that you will fail at the big tasks.

10. Lastly, who do you think would win in a gunfight, the overzealous Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry from the movie “Police Academy” or survivalist gun nut Burt Gummer from “Tremors?”

 I would have to go with Burt.  While I love Tackleberry’s drive and his affinity for guns, Burt has spent his life preparing.  A fight is always won before the first punch is thrown, before the first shot is fired.  Those who have developed a strong Tactical Mindset have a marked advantage.  I believe that all of us can and should have a Tactical Mindset.  We begin to develop this the day we realize that we are being hunted.  When we can understand the threats around us we can begin to develop the “when this-then what” preparedness that life requires.  Burt was prepared for giant worms in the ground, which tells me, he is prepared for pretty much anything

Repeal Gun-Free School Zones

I was at work when I heard about the murder of the innocents in Newton, Connecticut. I remember hearing the President on the radio. “The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” Obama said with great emotion. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

These were children the same age as my own. Like many Americans, like many parents, I felt saddened, outraged and violated by the actions of this madman who committed these despicable acts. Emotionally this felt like the most traumatic attack since 9/11.

Two days later President Obama spoke at the prayer vigil for the victims and hinted about efforts to prevent future tragedies. “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end,” said Obama. “And to end them, we must change.” But I wonder how much Obama and his allies are willing to change in response to tragedies like these.

It seems that the more of an abysmal failure a government measure is the more vehemently it will be defended by statists. In regard to school shootings the glaring failure is the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act (and its state and local clones). This law basically forbids the possession of a firearm in a school zone. Will Obama and his cohorts be willing to travel outside their own ideological comfort zone and listen to arguments that just maybe this measure does more harm than good? I’ll give them two reasons why the GFSZA should be repealed.

First, it’s unconstitutional. I realize that most politicians, like most of my countrymen, don’t care a fig about whether or not a law complies with the U.S. Constitution. But, since I once swore an oath to kill or die in defense of that document, I’ll include it here for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else. In this case you don’t have to just take the word of some blogger in his pajamas pounding a keyboard. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with me and already stuck the law down once.

The federal GFSZA was originally passed in 1990, but the Supreme Court ruled it to be an unconstitutional abuse of Congressional authority under the Constitution’s commerce clause in U.S.v Lopez (1995). To uphold the law, the court concluded, “would require us to conclude that the Constitution’s enumeration of powers does not presuppose something not enumerated, and that there never will be a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local. This we are unwilling to do.” In other words toting a gun in a local school is none of the federal governments damned business.

Congress responded by adding a few words to the original GFSZA and passing it again. Bill Clinton signed it again and it’s been the law ever since. Although it’s been challenged in lower courts, it hasn’t made it back to the Supreme Court to be re-reviewed. Perhaps someday it will and perhaps the court will have the right mixture of political appointees to uphold it. Regardless of what the Supreme Court has said or will say about it, it is anathema to the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

The second, and I think more practical, reason to repeal the GFSZA is that it doesn’t work. In 2000 Professors John R. Lott Jr. and William M. Landes released an exhaustive study of “Multiple Victim Public Shootings.” Some key findings from that study:

  • “Right-to-carry laws reduce the number of people killed or wounded from multiple victim public shootings as many attackers are either deterred from attacking or when attacks do occur they are stopped before the police can arrive.”
  • “Given that half the attackers in these multiple victim public shootings have had formal diagnoses of mental illness, the fact that some results indicate concealed handgun laws reduce these attacks by almost 70 percent is remarkable.”
  • “Not only does the passage of a right-to-carry law have a significant impact on multiple shootings but it is the only gun law that appears to have a significant impact.”
  • “[S]tates with the fewest gun free zones have the greatest reductions [in] killings, injuries, and attacks.”[Emphasis added.]

In a July 2012 New York Daily News op-ed piece, John R. Lott points out a salient fact from his continued research that should be required reading for everyone on both sides of this debate: “With a single exception, every multiple-victim public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms.” That fact alone is shocking and points out the failure of “gun-free zones” of any kind in this country.

So who in America will “change” to help reduce tragedies such as the Sandy Hook slayings? Will Obama and his friends be willing to change their worldview enough to accept anything other than more restrictions on private gun ownership as a potential aid to the problem? Will the only real change be more loss of freedom, as has happened after so many tragedies in our nations history? I hope not. 

Our nation is already a little darker with the 20 little beacons of hope extinguished prematurely at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Let’s not make it darker still by making all the other children grow up in a land less free.

Four Myths About Iowa’s New Gun Law

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.