Funny how much can hinge on just one word. Coming to Iowa in 2011, a single word change to the state’s gun law will remove the discretionary power regarding the issuance of concealed weapons permits from county sheriffs and back into the hands of state legislators. A simple change of the word “may” to “shall” ushered in a new era of standardized Iowan CCW issuance.
Bill architect and state representative Clel Baudler characterized the state of Iowa’s concealed weapons system as anarchic, unfair and overly susceptible to the arbitrary in comparison to what is generally seen across the US. Under this soon to be former system, each county sheriff was vested with what amounted to sweeping authority to cherry pick those citizens they saw fit for concealed carry. Though typically bound to uphold the law, ultimately, allegations that CCW issuance decisions were being made for personal rather legal reasons began to surface.
The resulting system now seems obvious: the level of difficulty in obtaining a permit depended on the county in which the applicant lived rather than the criteria spelled out Iowa’s state gun laws and their was a glaring and problematic incongruity of legal permit application across the state
Baudler’s charges, however, are cut deeper. He told Iowa’s The Messenger recently, “The law was drafted in a way to keep some groups of people from keeping weapons concealed – a certain class of people. Hopefully, now there will be no room for discrimination. The old law was highly discriminate.”
Curiously there was one aspect of the old law that held fast throughout Iowa—if your application was denied, there was no chance of appeal.
Webster County Sheriff Brian Mickelson (a county not known for concealed carry discrimination) said of the law change, “There are a certain amount of sheriffs’ offices, maybe eight or nine in the state, that are real particular about which applications they approve. And some don’t get any out. Certainly, though, in law enforcement we know about our citizens. We know who probably should or should not have a gun based on things like mental health committals or drug addiction.”
2009 Webster County Sheriff’s department figures show that 834 people in Webster County held permits to carry concealed firearms.