Mason City gun dealer Kemlin Hart said he is pleased with new Iowa gun rules taking effect at the start of 2011.
The rules are designed to take some of the inconsistencies out of the permitting process and allow gun owners to carry their weapons out in the open.
Beginning Jan. 1, Iowa sheriffs will issue permits to carry a firearm which will be good for five years, rather than one year. The permits can no longer be restricted or arbitrarily denied by sheriffs.
In the past, sheriffs could require that weapons be concealed when carried in public and they also could restrict individuals from carrying handguns while consuming alcohol.
Those provisions will no longer apply.
“Personally, I think it’s a great thing, Hart said.
“The thing about the old law, the law in place now, is that if the sheriff doesn’t like you on a personal level he can say no and you don’t get a permit. He can do it for whatever reason he wants,” Hart said.
“We should be granted every right guaranteed by our Constitution until we prove that we don’t deserve that right or can’t handle that right,” he said.
Floyd County Sheriff Rick Lynch said the new law won’t effect how he issues permits.
He said if an applicant has taken a firearms safety class and isn’t disqualified by a state or federal rule he has issued a permit.
“I basically followed the law that was on the books,” Lynch said.
He said he is concerned about a provision of the law that will allow people who are legally permitted to carry a firearm to do so while consuming alcohol, such as in a bar or restaurant.
“Unless the person is obviously drunk or impaired there is no way an officer can check the person because under this law the permit holder does not have to consent to give you a breath test,” Lynch said.
“Also I don’t like that a permit holder can now drive around in their vehicles with shotguns and rifles loaded in plain view or that any permit holder can walk around in plain view with a gun strapped to their hip or walk around with a loaded shotgun in their hands,” he said.
Iowa law does not currently require that people who have carry permits conceal their weapons, but many sheriffs added that restriction.
Iowa law currently allows two types of permits, a permit to carry which allows the individual to carry a loaded deadly weapon, and a permit to acquire, which allows for the purchase of a handgun.
Floyd County has 273 carry permits and 183 permits to acquire.
Cerro Gordo County has 504 carry permits and 536 permits to acquire.
Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals said the new state law was pushed by the National Rifle Association and the Iowa Carry Association.
“They got it approved and that’s what we will work with,” he said.
Pals said most county sheriffs wanted their carry permit holders to continue to have to conceal the weapon.
“Now they don’t have to. It’s similar to laws in Texas. Just take your gun with you,” Pals said.
“I think that it is going to be a little shocking to some of the people in North Iowa, you know, make people feel odd and weird,” he said.
Pals said he expects that some people will call law enforcement when they see someone carrying a gun.
“Obviously there’s no signs on people’s foreheads that say they have a permit so there could be the potential of people without permits just carrying their guns, too. I don’t really see that, but it could happen.”
Statewide, Iowa sheriffs issue more than 36,000 weapons permits.
“As far as the five-year permitting process, I think that’s a great idea,” said gun owner Dennis Guth of Klemme. “It is a little bit of a hassle to have to take care of that every year.
“I don’t think that Iowa is quite ready to have you swagger down Main Street with a gun on both hips,” he said. “It’s not the wild, wild West, but being able to carry unconcealed in some conditions just makes sense to me I guess.”
Guth said the new law might make the average person more comfortable with citizens openly carrying guns.
“We need to get the general public to a place where they are not afraid of that. Actually, I see that as a benefit to society.”
“The unarmed citizens don’t have anything to worry about. The armed citizens don’t have anything to worry about. It’s just that the criminals have something to worry about,” Hart said.
“I think there are a surprising number of people out there right now that have the concealed carry permit who do carry and we never know about it.”
Hart said the ability to openly carry a weapon sends a clear message to someone seeking to do harm.
“Hey, this is what I’ve got,” Hard said the message is. “Don’t bother me because I know how to use it. I am legal to use it and I am trained to use it.”