April 17, 2024

Sheriff, gun store owner talk impact of new gun law

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the constitutional carry bill into law on April 2 and it took effect July 1. The law eliminates the requirement for a permit to acquire a handgun and a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Colt Weehler, who owns Weehler’s Gun Shop in Benton, said he noticed a spike in business on July 1.

“I was probably up 60% in sales on day one just in handguns,” Weehler said.

Union County Sheriff Mark Shepherd said the new gun law doesn’t change much for him.

“From a law enforcement standpoint it’s business as usual. They still have permits to carry and we’re still selling those,” he said. “We’re still operating the same way we’ve been trained to: that we have to at least consider that everybody we deal with could be armed. Whether they be legally armed or illegally armed. That doesn’t change how we interact with them.”

Shepherd said he has some concerns about the new statute.

“And as far as constitutional carry, I want to see how it affects the public,” he said. “I do have concern that it could put weapons into the hands of people who shouldn’t have weapons. And then I also have concerns that the Constitution is followed and people’s rights aren’t trampled on. I want to see if the legislature has reached a balance there that’s good for all.”

As far as the wrong people getting weapons, Shepherd said he’s more concerned about them doing so inadvertently.

“A criminal act is a criminal act. It’s illegal to possess cocaine in Iowa but we know people do. I think anybody could get a gun anytime they want to in the United States, whether legally or illegally. I guess the only concern I would have would be somebody ignorantly obtaining a gun illegally because they don’t understand the laws. Let’s just say they have a domestic violence conviction in their past which would prohibit them from obtaining a permit,” he said. “So they believe they can legally possess when they can’t.”

Shepherd said an easy way to find out for certain one’s eligibility to own a firearm is to apply for a permit to acquire a weapon with the Union County Sheriff’s Office, which is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The fee is $25, and the fee for a permit to carry is $50.

Shepherd and Weehler both recommended anyone buying a gun obtain a permit because it accelerates the background check process. Weehler said without a permit to acquire it can take up to 10 days to get clearance from the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Under the Brady Law, Federal Firearms Licensees like Weehler are allowed to make the sale after three days but he said he always waits for ATF verification.

“I won’t turn a firearm loose unless I get the ok, especially if they don’t have a permit. That just protects them and protects me, because if they get their firearm taken away and they pay for it, they don’t get their gun back and they don’t get a refund from me,” he said.

Wheehler also said it’s rare for a buyer to get denied and he’s never seen it happen.

Although the permit to carry a concealed weapon is no longer required in Iowa, it can still be beneficial for handgun owners. According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, it provides legal protections for carrying a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school and allows Iowans to carry in states with concealed carry reciprocity. There are 17 states, including Illinois and Minnesota, that do not have reciprocity for Iowa concealed carry permits.

Weehler said he makes sure new gun owners are adequately informed, and recommends handgun owners take a concealed carry class.

“I make sure they know how to operate a fire before they walk out the door,” he said. “I do personally anyway. I don’t know about other shops but when they walk out of my place they know how the gun operates, how to clean it, how to tear it apart, how it works, gets loaded and everything.”