Weapons permits


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?

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