January 20, 2021

Concealed guns law change puts public at risk


Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. With bullets.

Come New Year’s Day next year, more people in Iowa will be carrying guns after the National Rifle Association strong-armed the Iowa State Legislature into passing a bill Tuesday that changes the way concealed weapon permits are issued. You can bet Charlton Heston is happily cleaning his guns somewhere in the afterlife.

Sheriffs in Iowa’s 99 counties no longer “may issue” a concealed weapon permit at their discretion, such as denying an applicant who appears unstable or has a troubled history despite no record. Instead, if an applicant meets a few rudimentary requirements, sheriffs “shall issue” a permit.

The question is: Why does the average person need to carry a concealed weapon?

The only logical answer: Hunters want more of an element of surprise.

As if hunting with a gun wasn’t enough of an advantage, people looking for deer, ducks, pheasant, etc. can now casually walk up to animal before whipping out a pistol and flashing a grin that says, “Aha, you didn’t see this one coming, did you punk?”

In all seriousness, it’s unlikely the new bill will make people safer, despite Rep. Clel Baudler (R-Greenfield), a retired Iowa State Patrol trooper, telling the Associated Press, “More guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens leads to fewer deaths by handguns.”

For a former law enforcement official, that kind of counter-intuitive math is frightening. By my count, less guns would lead to fewer deaths by handguns. But don’t take my word for it.

Here is what Jasper County Sheriff Mike Balmer had to say: “The long and short of it is, (with the revised law) we will not be able to filter out some people in the community who have never been arrested but have hair triggers, bad tempers — people who would not be in the public’s best interest to issue a concealed weapon permit.”

Balmer, who issued somewhere between 300-400 permits to Jasper County residents last year, said 80-85 percent of sheriffs in Iowa agree with his opinion. But the opinions of the people who are charged with protecting the state’s communities were mysteriously ignored by legislators.

(Or, one could argue, they were drowned out by NRA political contributions.)

The most alarming part of the bill is that Iowa will now recognize the concealed weapon permits of every Tom, Dick and Dirty Harry from out of state. Who is to say another state’s background checks will be as thorough as Iowa’s?

“The trick in that is there is no database,” Balmer said. “If you came from New Jersey and just came out of a mental institution, we would never know that.”

County Attorney Mike Jacobsen told me he could think of only two violent crimes involving guns since he has been with the office.

“We don’t have a very big crime rate as far as weapons, at least in our community,” he said.

Why the need for more guns then?

This isn’t to say the second amendment shouldn’t be respected and protected. If you want a gun, and you’re law abiding and mentally sound, you should be able to own a gun. The problem with lax laws regarding concealed weapons is more gun crimes are likely to arise from petty disputes between average Joes.

Balmer said if someone gets cuts off on the interstate, they might not be waving a first or middle finger.

“Now if they have a right to carry a concealed weapon, they might be waving a handgun to show their displeasure,” he said.

And while schools, public parks and other areas continue to be places that are off-limits to people carrying concealed weapons, the most obvious place for more guns in the community to do damage is at the local watering hole. The legal BAC to carry a concealed weapon is the same as getting into a car and driving, but if you think trying to get someone to hand over their keys is tough, wait until you try to have them give you their gun.

“You’re friends will no longer be saying ‘give me the keys,’” Balmer said. “They’ll be saying ‘pretty please give me the keys.’”