Sheriffs Continue Fight Against Shall Issue Legislation

The 2010 legislative session marked another year of an ongoing struggle for gun advocates looking for changes in Iowa’s gun permitting law. Unlike previous years, the 2010 session bore fruit. In the final days of session a “shall issue” carry bill passed. That bill, SF 2379, takes effect January 1st but continues to face attacks from a familiar foe.

A number of Iowa sheriffs have continued to raise questions about changes they opposed in SF 2379 with an apparent intention of having changes made next year. For many, sheriffs were the reason changes to our gun permitting laws were needed. Under current law, sheriffs have complete discretion as to whether they will issue a permit and how they will issue it.

This meant that some sheriffs completely refused to issue gun permits. If you lived in “their” county, you did not enjoy the same constitutional rights as someone in another county. Other sheriffs issued permits but placed odd and crippling restrictions upon them. Some examples include permits limited to only be valid when carrying a certain amount of cash or not valid within the limits of incorporated areas.

The bill that was passed this year, by overwhelming majorities, addressed these issues by joining many fellow states in embracing the Second Amendment with “shall issue” gun permits. That means that as long as you meet the State’s qualifications, a sheriff shall issue you a permit. This removes authority from the sheriffs and not surprisingly has been met with opposition from a number of them and those lobbying on their behalf.

“…it remains against the law to fire a weapon on or over highways and public roadways.”

Recently a number of sheriffs have raised concerns over various changes set to take effect at the beginning of next year. One concern raised is that the law will somehow lead to people hunting from their vehicles. While it is true that a permit holder can have a loaded weapon in their vehicle, it remains against the law to fire a weapon on or over highways and public roadways (Iowa Code Chapter 481A.54).

Another concern raised is that sheriffs will not be aware if someone is arrested for a crime that would invalidate a permit. It is contended that the current annual permit allows for more assurance that violators will be caught rather than only catching them at the new five year renewal. However, SF 2379 recognizes this by allowing sheriffs to perform annual criminal history checks on permits holders to maintain the current level of oversight.

The largest point of contention however seems to be the training requirements for qualification. Training is something that was exclusively offered by county sheriffs. However, the new law will open opportunities to obtain qualified instruction from others. As with current law, there are not a set of statewide standards related to the content of firearms safety training.

Much like current law, SF 2379 allows those who are best equipped in the area of firearm safety to determine the necessary content of their programs. Many will likely seek training from certified instructors of the National Rifle Association, a group who has long advocated for safety training and offered courses nationwide.

Also centered around the qualification process, some have complained that the law does not require an applicant to participate in a range test. However, the Legislature has not previously placed such a requirement upon applicants and chose not to add it in this revised law.

With such a large change to how Iowa handles the issuance of permits and the carrying of weapons, it is fair to expect that refinements to the law may be needed. While some of the issues highlighted above may not be areas all agree need addressed, there very well may be some areas where adjustments could be made. For this reason, it is important to continue to evaluate our practices and engage on the issue.