SPECIAL REPORT: Ally Get Your Gun - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings


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A weapon. A machine. A way to defend yourself.

A gun.

One question this story answers is this: what does it take to carry a gun, legally, in Iowa?

I went through the process of getting my permit to carry. Prior to the process, firearms were completely foreign to me. I didn't grow up with guns, my parents never had them, I had never even touched a gun.

There are a number of ways through which to get a permit to carry in Iowa. While there are in-person classes offered, online courses are also available.

I used Iowa Concealed, Online Concealed Carry Certification (site can be found here), which is an online training course. I watched a 40-minute firearm safety and training video, then took an 11-question test based on information from the video.

If you get the majority of the questions correct -- you pass, like I did. Depending on the site used, there's a fee to receive the certificate. For Iowa Concealed, it was $76.

Once I got my certificate of training, I applied for the permit through my county sheriff's office, which is Black Hawk County. The application fee was $66. The county then performs a background check and mental heath check. If approved, you will get your permit within 30 days; and you're not required to have any physical training.

At the gun range in Black Hawk County, I talked with Sheriff Tony Thompson.

"I'm not a fan of online training... for most of those folks who would do harm to you, if you don't have training, or if the limit of your training is you sitting in front of a computer screen for an hour, you are very likely going to be their next victim."

In 2011, the Iowa law changed in regards to weapons permits. Iowa went from a "may issue" state to a "shall issue" state. People also are not required to carry concealed anymore. With being a "shall issue" state, county sheriffs lost a lot of their power to decide who gets a permit, and who doesn't. If you're not a felon, and have no signs of mental illness, you get the green light.

The sheriff must then issue the permit within 30 days, even if he or she is still waiting on someone's records to be sent over from another county or state.

"If we don't have enough information to deny, they're being issued a permit," Sheriff Thompson said.

My permit was ready for pick-up two weeks after I applied for it. I went to the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office, showed my certificate of training from my online course, showed my ID, and after a signature and photo, I was handed my permit.

I am now legal to carry. And I've only fired a gun eight times in my entire lifetime, and that happened in just the last two weeks at the gun range.

"The legitimate needs of the community, and of your neighbors, to know you can hit the broad side of the barn, and not the baby in the back seat next to the barn, that's important," Sheriff Thompson said.

Sheriff Thompson estimates roughly 100 permits to carry are issued a month in Black Hawk County alone. I asked him of those people, how many does he think have suitable training:

"I would guess less than 10 percent."

Over at Tactical Creations in Vinton, Owner Bob DuCharme sees hundreds of people a month shopping for a firearm. DuCharme said most people he sees in his store are looking for handguns.

Shoppers are looking for training, too. Bill Keller has been a firearms instructor for seven years, and also helps train local law enforcement, like the Vinton Police Department.

Here's Keller's take on permit to carry:

"I think all of us have a right to defend our life. And a tool people can use is a firearm."

The right Keller is referencing is the Second Amendment. I also asked him about online training, which is how I got my permit. 

"There's nothing in state law that dictates you have to sit in a classroom. So from my point of view, legally, everything works fine with an online permit."

That's where Keller and Sheriff Thompson differ. They disagree on what you have to do to get the permit, but once you have it, they're on the same page: in-person training, and a lot of it. Over, and over.

"If you get a permit, buy a gun, leave it in the box, you're learning nothing," Keller said.

I asked both Sheriff Thompson, and Bill Keller, this question:

When it comes to the Iowa process of getting a permit to carry, as a whole, is it safe?

"I'm not going to answer that," Sheriff Thompson said.

"Safe is a big word... people in Iowa seem to take the right seriously. So I don't have any problem with the process of getting a permit in the state of Iowa," Keller said.

A mutual takeaway: understand the responsibility.

As for where you can carry a gun in the state, the Iowa Code for Iowa's Weapon Law, bills introduced this legislative session, and other information, click here.

Another Personal Note from Ally:

Since I got my permit to carry, many people have asked me, "So are you actually going to get a gun?" The answer right now is no. As I mentioned, guns and the firearms industry in general were completely foreign to me before doing this story. At this point, I feel like I would need much more in-person training with a professional to feel comfortable carrying safely. As for buying a gun, and then carrying every single day, that is something I will most likely never do. However, covering this process in our state certainly has been educational, and I hope you walk away having learned about it as well.

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