Eight months in, concerns still loom over gun permit changes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eight months in, concerns still loom over gun permit changes

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WEST UNION (KWWL) -

It's been eight months since a change to Iowa's gun permit law took effect.  Since then, many area sheriff's departments have seen a big spike in the number of people applying for the ability to openly carry a weapon.  In many cases, there have been double the number of gun permits issued in the first half of this year, compared to all of 2010.

But with that increase, have authorities experienced any problems?  The good news is so far, the answer is now.  County sheriffs we talked with say there hasn't been an increase in crime with the new law in place.  But that doesn't mean there aren't still some serious concerns with the change.

Just before the change to Iowa's gun permit law took effect, a lot of gun owners couldn't wait to apply for the ability to carry their weapons in public.

"For the last six, seven years you know, the more things change in the world, the more I want to be able to protect my family," said gun owner Michael Engling.

Sure enough, since the new law has kicked in, area sheriff's departments have seen a flood of people applying for permits.

"Last year, 2010, here in Fayette County, we issued 168 permits.  And now by August here, we've already issued 426 permits," said Fayette County Sheriff Marty Fisher.

Sheriff Fisher says the odd thing is, the majority of those people would've been granted a permit under the old law, too.  However, there are a few exceptions to that.  The law only gives local sheriffs the right to deny permits for those with a history of mental illness or felony convictions.

"Now it's that people who have maybe extensive arrest history, who may not fall into that category, may be issued those legally under the law.  And it is a concern," said Fisher.

There are also still concerns about the lack of specific training requirements in the new law. You only have to prove that you took a gun class.  But what each instructor teaches can vary a lot.

"The way the Iowa law is now presently worded, all they have to have is the instructor's name on there, such as a National Rifle Association instructor.  As long as his name and number is on that certificate, what type of training he provided to that student is completely up to him," Fisher said.

That's the biggest reason that many sheriffs hope the Iowa legislature will seriously consider adopting changes to the training requirements for anyone wanting a gun permit when it reconvenes next year.

Despite those concerns, Sheriff Fisher says he now encourages people to apply for gun permits since law enforcement officers can't regulate who should not be able to carry a weapon, but they can screen those that do apply.

Area sheriffs say another disadvantage of the new permit law is that they cannot add stipulations for where someone can carry a gun.  For example, under the old law, Fayette County did not allow gun permit holders to carry a weapon into businesses where alcohol is sold.  But those added rules are not permitted under the new law.

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