Gun Permit Sales Surge in Iowa After "Shall Issue" Law

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

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By Liz Blood

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It's been nearly two years since Iowa became a "shall issue" concealed weapons state.

As a "shall issue" state, county sheriffs can only deny concealed weapons permits for specific reasons like alcoholism, mental illness or past felony convictions.

Since then, concealed weapons permits have surged. According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in 2010, 40,747 Iowans got permits to carry a gun. Last year, the first year under shall issue, that number skyrocketed to 102,729 Iowans.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in 2010, the Linn County Sheriff's Office issued 1,542 permits. That number jumped in 2011 to 5,362 permits. So far in 2012, Linn County 2,201 permits as of October 9, 2012.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in 2010, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office issued 574 permits. In 2011, that number jumped to 2,290. So far in 2012, Johnson County issued 895 permits as of October 9, 2012.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in 2010, the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office issued 1,890 permits. In 2011, the number grew to 3,347 permits. So far in 2012, Black Hawk County issued 1,153 permits as of October 9, 2012.

69-year-old Ann Parks has been a permit to carry holder since last October. "I couldn't fight back before, now I can fight back if I have to,” said Parks.

Parks got locked and loaded after she says society changed.

“Now you don't know who your neighbors are. They don't know who you are. Now, they have to lock up everything with a steel trap,” said Parks.

Cedar Rapids police statistics show another alarming change; a jump in gun incidents. In 2011, there were a dozen gun-related police reports in Cedar Rapids. And so far this year, there have been 52 shootings including shot-up buildings, suicides and murders.

But, a records search shows not one of the known offenders had a gun permit. It’s no surprise to gun shop owner Ernie Traugh.

“The violence isn't coming from the ppl with permits, we don't have to worry about that,” said Cedar Valley Outfitters Owner Ernie Traugh.

Before you can legally carry a gun on Iowa streets, you have to prove you went through some kind of training course. Trenton Gaines took a gun permit class with Ernie Traugh after someone broke into his home earlier this year.

“Just hearing that information and having my kids there I just truly felt violated that someone came into the home of my children. Luckily they weren't there but if they were, who's to say what could have happened,” said permit to carry holder Trenton Gaines.

While Gaines' four hour class ends with an exam, some classes also require a shooting test. But most online classes have very few requirements at all. That's where Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner sees a problem. While he supports shall issue, he believes its current form doesn’t do enough to protect the public.

“The training here is non-existent as far as what you need to qualify to carry a weapon,” said Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner.

Iowa law doesn't specify how much training is needed to carry a gun legally.

“You can literally have a person looking like a gun slinger from the old west with a two six shooters strapped to their hip walking down downtown Cedar Rapids and you can’t do a thing about it,” said Gardner.

And once you get your Iowa permit, you can legally carry a gun in 38 other shall issue states and vice versa. At the same time, some Iowans are going out of state to get a gun permit. Right now, 921 Iowans have a Florida gun permit, including 35 in Cedar Rapids. But Gardner says those permits are illegal.

“They think they can live in the state of Iowa, go out of state, receive a permit and use that permit to carry in the state of Iowa and that's not correct,” said Gardner.

Legally, you must have an Iowa permit if you're an Iowa resident. Like a driver's license.

“I don't think it's a loophole because it’s illegal. The law clearly establishes that you can't do that. If people are doing it, it’s because people are trying to skirt the law or they are mis-informed,” said Gardner.

But Traugh believes that will change.

“I think you'll see in the next several years if you have a permit its good in every state I think that's coming down the pipeline,” said Traugh.

But anti-gun activist John Johnson warns more people carrying guns in public poses a threat.

"…a shooting during an argument, or a dispute, or an unintended shooting or an attempt of suicide…” said Johnson, the former director of Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence.

Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence strives to make gun owners aware of the dangers of firearms while lobbying to lawmakers.

“Lawmakers are gutless when it comes to standing up to the gun lobby on this issue,” said Johnson.

The National Violence Policy Center reports Florida leading the nation in a dubious honor.

"They now lead the country in homicides committed by concealed carry licenses. Iowa is 25 years behind them,” said Johnson.

All parties on both sides of this issue agree, nearly two years after shall issue was passed, it may still be too soon to see the full impact.

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