Guns


I noticed my Saturday article about the changes Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner has made to the county’s concealed weapons permit law didn’t make it online, except in our e-Edition. I know many of you are interested in this subject, so I’m inserting a copy of it here:

Concealed weapons permits article

Because of its previously restrictive rules, Linn County was long one of the most difficult Iowa counties in which to get a concealed carry permit. That was a bone of contention between the Sheriff’s Office and residents who are hardcore Second Amendment supporters, Josh Kissling told me during our interview. Kissling is the president of the Linn County chapter of the International Defensive Pistol Association, the governing body of a competitive shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters.

Most of the club’s members, even though they have proven themselves to be great self-defense marksmen, were not granted gun permits under former sheriff Don Zeller simply because they didn’t carry lots of money on them — an unchangable prerequisite under Zeller’s reign, Kissling said. “Zeller had an elitist view, like your life is only worth saving if you can carry $500 around in your pocket,” Kissling said. “He must have thought the common citizen would be too dumb to know what to do with a gun.”

Zeller has told me he felt the fewer guns there are on the street, the better. Even legal ones. He has never directly answered the oft-quoted “elitist” argument with me, though.

What the changes really mean are that the number of people legally carrying guns in Linn County is likely going to triple in the next year or so. It’s still probably not going to include a huge percentage of the population, but a big change, nonetheless. So what do you guys think? Are the rule changes good or bad?

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Despite Iowa’s status as a “may issue” state for concealed weapon permits and the state’s relatively low violent crime rate, the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence still ranks us 17th on its yearly report tracking “sensible gun laws” across the country. The activist group’s tracking scorecards came out Wednesday.

Iowa got 16 points out of 100, whereas California got 79 points. Nearly 20 points of California’s total come from its requirement that ALL gun sellers, even private ones, are required to do a background check before they sell a gun to someone. People are also limited to buying one handgun a month there, another 10 points. The latter requirement seems punitive to law-abiding citizens who happen to like guns (along with a few other gun laws the Brady Campaign touts as “sensible”), but having what’s called a “universal background check” law seems like a good idea. I mean, what’s the use of required licensed gun dealers to do background checks when private sellers don’t have to? How is that keeping guns off the street?

Iowa’s score was the highest in the Midwest, save for Illinois. Well, Iowa’s safer, so we still win.

You can read the Brady Campaign’s news release, report and all scorecards here.

The Dubuque Times-Herald ran a story today about the process behind issuing concealed carry permits in Iowa. You can read it here if you want, but basically it says that Iowa’s 99 counties have 99 ways of handing out gun permits to residents who want one, and the decision rests solely on the sheriff of that county. That creates disparities, and I know some people here in Linn County who believe that discriminatory. And, really, they’re right. Even Sheriff Don Zeller has said many times that he would support uniform guidelines statewide — the problem is, the legislature has to deal with it, and they didn’t last year given the opportunity.

I used our archives to find out how many people in the surrounding five-county area have gun permits. Linn County has issued the most in the area – roughly 470 – but that’s only about .23 percent of the population. That’s actually higher than a lot of other counties in Iowa. Johnson, for instance, has issued about 200 to .16 percent of the population. Benton County has about .75 percent of people with permits, and Buchanan County with .88 percent. The highest rate is in Jones County, with 1.67 percent. That’s hardly enough people to cause alarm.

After much research, I do have a beef with people who tie lower crime rates to the number of private citizens who are allowed to carry guns. I looked up violent crime rates for all states and compared right to carry states with the remaining 10 states that aren’t. And an in-state example for you: Black Hawk County is among the least restrictive in granting the permits (there were 17 permits per 1,000 adults there, with only about 2.5 here), but Waterloo has more violent crime than we do. But Dubuque also has more crime than we do, and issues very few permits. So, really, the free issuance of gun permits as a crime predictor is questionable.

Has anyone been in a situation where they feel the outcome would have been different if they were allowed to carry a gun? I really do want to know. Even though some people feel I am anti-gun, I merely don’t want one. I don’t feel they are necessary for protection. My basic stance: We need to make sure guns stay out of the hands of criminals, that background checks are done before guns are sold, and that if we’re going to have a “right to carry” state, we need to make sure the people who can carry guns actually know how to use them responsibly through self-defense classes. And that’s all, folks.

Below is the the 2007 violent crime comparison:

Right to carry states Population Violent crime rate per 100,000 residents
Maine 1317207 118
Vermont 621254 124.3
New Hampshire 1315828 137.3
North Dakota 639715 142.4
South Dakota 796214 169.2
Utah 2645330 234.8
Wyoming 522830 239.3
Idaho 1499402 239.4
Connecticut 3502309 256
Virginia 7712091 269.7
West Virginia 1812035 275.2
Montana 957861 287.5
Oregon 3747455 287.6
Minnesota 5197621 288.7
Mississippi 2918785 291.3
Iowa* 2988046 294.7
Kentucky 4241474 295
Nebraska 1774571 302.4
Washington 6468424 333.1
Indiana 6345289 333.6
Ohio 11466917 343.2
Colorado 4861515 347.8
Pennsylvania 12432792 416.5
Alabama* 4627851 448
Kansas 2775997 452.7
North Carolina 9061032 466.4
Arizona 6338755 482.7
Georgia 9544750 493.2
Oklahoma 3617316 499.6
Missouri 5878415 504.9
Texas 6156719 510.6
Arkansas 2834797 529.4
Michigan 10071822 536
Alaska** 683478 661.2
New Mexico 1969915 664.2
Florida 18251243 722.6
Louisiana 4293204 729.5
Nevada 2565382 750.6
Tennessee 6156719 753.3
South Carolina 4407709 788.3
Low/No permit states
Rhode Island 1057832 227.3
Hawaii 1283388 272.8
Wisconsin 5601640 290.9
New Jersey 8685920 329.3
New York 19297729 414.1
Massachusetts 6449755 431.5
California 36553215 522.6
Illinois 12852548 533.2
Maryland 5618344 641.9
Delaware 864764 689.2
District of Columbia 588292 1414.3

I went to Dyersville on Saturday evening when we first heard about the shooting at 511 Ninth St. SE. I spoke to the next door neighbors, where David Herman and Jen Fauver left their children before getting that last fateful load of belongings from their apartment. They didn’t want to talk to me because the children — one they had together and two of Jen’s — didn’t know Herman was dead yet.

Gutwrenching situations like this always present a problem for people on both sides of the fence on self-defense.

Here’s what we DO know about what happened: That afternoon, Herman confronted Christopher Leppert, a Dubuque man hired to change the locks after Herman and Fauver were evicted. They punched and shoved each other. The Dubuque Times-Herald reports that Leppert was able to retreat to his car, where his .32-caliber pistol was hidden. Herman, who was not carrying a weapon, jumped into the locksmith’s car. Another fight broke out, and sometime during the second altercation the locksmith shot Herman in the chest, according to the sheriff’s department.

There is at least one more crucial question that still need to be answered in my mind — Did Leppert warn Herman that he would shoot him if he didn’t back off? Situations like this one can be Monday morning quarterbacked to death, but that warning is the real key. Whether you’re pro- or anti-gun, I’m sure this case will turn out to be an interesting one, legally.

In the meantime, read a story about whether self-defense laws have gone too far here. Personally, I would have done the same thing as Mitch Morelli. Who threatens my kid and gets away with it? Not that I have one…

I’ve had a few conversations with gun owners who are worried about being targeted because The Gazette prints the list of people who renew or get a new concealed carry weapons permit each month from Linn and surrounding counties. We believe the public has a right to know who is legally carrying a gun, just as we all can readily identify a police officer or military officer. We also print charges brought against people who are found to have guns illegally. The people I’ve talked to are concerned that, because people know they carry, they may become the target of assault or home burglary.

I thought I’d go through The Gazette archives and look at all the burglaries in the past few years in which firearms were reportedly stolen. There have been only four that we reported, and one of those was at the home of a person who has a concealed carry permit. So, I suppose the fears aren’t totally baseless, but it’s not like they’re being victimized at a higher rate. I am also aware that many stolen firearms around here are taken during unreported burglaries, but I’m pretty sure those aren’t at the homes of diehard Second Amendment supporters. As a general fan of public information, I’d really hate for people to stop putting their names and/or addresses in the phone book, but I’ve gotta say — if you’ve got stuff you don’t want stolen, don’t give people the opportunity to find you.

The names of people who have concealed carry permits aren’t public record in some states. For example, Missouri keeps their list of concealed carry permits sealed. But I’m all for full disclosure of who’s packing heat — even if it were me. At least people should know what to expect if they tried to mug me, eh?

It’s a federal class-action lawsuit that was just filed from Osceola County, claiming a man’s 2nd and 14th Amendment rights were violated when county Sheriff Doug Weber denied his application for a concealed weapons permit last year. So far, that man, Paul Dorr, and his 18-year-old son, Alexander Dorr, are the only two members of the lawsuit, but I know there are a lot of people in Linn County, especially, who are miffed about Sheriff Don Zeller’s selective permit process.

In essence, if he wins, Iowa would most likely start issuing a lot more concealed carry permits. It doesn’t really excite me to think that some crazy people I know could legally carry a handgun into a public meeting.

The Dorrs’ 35-page complaint against Sheriff Weber says Weber denied the permit because “there’s some fear out there of (Paul) Dorr,” and that he didn’t feel comfortable issuing the permit because “he didn’t trust him.” However, no documentation of that “fear” was provided. Right now, it’s up to each county sheriff’s discretion to whom they issue concealed carry permits. All they have to do is provide a reason. Dorr is claiming Weber is denying him equal protection under the law, namely because his wife, Debra, was granted a permit when he and their son weren’t.

I know of Paul Dorr from my work at the Sioux City Journal before I moved here. He runs a consulting company that does a lot of campaigning against public school bonds (I helped cover one of his successful campaigns in 2006 in Ponca, Neb., and he is a supporter of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State) and is also involved in right-wing political activism, including anti-abortion issues. In his complaint, he claims he’s found blog entries referring to “shooting Paul Dorr,” and apparently carrying a gun will make him safe. The guy’s been accused of using fear tactics, racism and other icky things to convince people not to vote for things, and he makes money doing it. I would hope no one else would stoop to that level.

I’ll keep y’all posted on the proceedings.

There is NO way they are not related. It’s too coincidental, too “random.” Read the latest update here.

And the two known victims, and known suspect in one shooting, all have pretty extensive criminal histories (not in themselves remarkable, but interesting in context). Jamail Cowen, victim in the first shooting, has been convicted of drug possession numerous times. Andre Springfield, victim in the second shooting at 1846 A Ave. NE, has been convicted of going armed with intent, burglary and drug possession. And the man connected to Springfield’s shooting, Kevin E. Lee, has been convicted of burglary and was twice considered a fugitive from justice. He’s been charged with going armed with intent in this case.

Drug or gang related shootings? Could they be retribution? I think it’s likely something’s up. I’m exploring my theory. Feel free to help me. You know where to find me.

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